Cuomo Belmont Arena LIRR station spurs strong reactions in community

(Photo by Janelle Clausen)

A Long Island Rail Road station will be built on the Main Line as part of the Belmont Park development, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday. It is the first full-time LIRR station to be built in nearly 50 years.

The new station will be located between the Queens Village and Bellerose stations just east of the Cross Island Parkway. Cuomo’s plans said that electric shuttle buses, which were already planned to run from parking lots within Belmont Park to a proposed new arena for the Islanders hockey team, will also serve LIRR riders traveling to the grandstand and planned arena, hotel and retail village.

“The Belmont project will help drive the region’s economy forward while building the Islanders a state-of-the-art facility at home on Long Island, creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic output along the way,” Cuomo said in a news release.

The cost of constructing the new full-time station on the Main Line and upgrading the existing spur is estimated to be $105 million. Cuomo’s announcement said that the Empire State Development team will cover $97 million, 92 percent of the total, and the state will invest the remaining $8 million.

The LIRR station is expected to have service approximately every half hour during peak hours and every hour during off-peak hours, according to the news release.

The announcement came as the Empire State Development board voted at a meeting in Manhattan to publish the arena project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement online.

Aubrey Phillips, a spokesman for the Belmont Park Community coalition, expressed frustration with the announcement, saying he had been led to believe that Cuomo would hold a Long Island news conference.

“There was no conference, he issued out a press release instead,” Phillips said.

Phillips was critical of the announcement and the location of the meeting saying, “They announced a meeting on a holiday weekend nowhere near where the project is.”

In regards to transparency, the Belmont Park Community Coalition sent out an email giving the Empire State Development board an “F.”

Larry Penner, a transportation historian who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation, wrote an open letter critiquing Cuomo’s announcement.

In regard to the project costing $105 million, Penner wrote, “Just how did he come up with this number? A reliable cost estimate takes more than just a press release with station renderings that were probably prepared by Empire State Development Corporation project consultant.”

Phillips is critical of the location of the proposed train station, noting that the station is not in Belmont, but in Bellerose Terrace. On the station, Phillips said, “It doesn’t solve the problems of Elmont residents.”

Dominick Longobardi, mayor of the Village of Floral Park, said that he has asked town engineers to review the plans for the proposed LIRR station.

In a statement to residents Longobardi wrote, “Although a train station may be helpful in that it may alleviate some traffic, it’s not a panacea and, quite frankly, generates additional concerns as to the placement of the train station and its impact on surrounding residents.”

Longobardi said his three concerns about the Belmont Park project are traffic, parking and security. He said that while the original plans for the arena project had a parking lot, the parking burden will be on the residents in more updated plans. Longobardi said that in order to be successful, the arena must be open at least 250 days a year and he is concerned about the effect the constant influx of consumers for games will have on the community.

At Monday’s village board meeting Longobardi said, “As this project progressed new elements were introduced such as the use of the south parking lot for the “Shopping Experience,” forcing the major majority of the parking to be behind the main racetrack and placing it adjacent to our grammar school and many of our homes, leaving our residents to deal with all kinds of issues from security, tailgating, light and noise pollution, etc. We have discussed ways to alleviate these issues such as natural barriers, directed lighting.”

Longobardi is requesting more time to review the project’s final Environmental Impact Statement, which has 22 large chapters. Longobardi and the Floral Park village board said they doubt that a public comment period closing at noon on July 23 is enough time to respond.

The new LIRR station has the support of state Sens. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

“I am confident that this project will deliver real, long-term benefits for Long Islanders. Let’s say ‘yes’ to jobs, ‘yes’ to economic opportunity, and ‘yes’ to creating a Long Island that will thrive in the future,” Curran said in a news release.


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