Readers Write: 3rd track: more minuses than pluses

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As a lifelong resident of New Hyde Park Village, I remain opposed to the third track expansion project because I believe permanent and undesirable effects can and will be triggered by its proposals.

According to the scoping documents, existing traffic routes will be modified which require the redirection of commuter and commercial traffic through our residential neighborhoods, cement retaining walls along roadways will change our suburban appearance and obstruct residents’ access to roadways, mandatory speed limits will be altered, another railroad line will be constructed closer to residential properties, and daily railway traffic will dramatically increase.

These changes can cause significant noise pollution, air pollution and vibration, as well.

As a result, the health and safety of those who live in our community will be seriously and permanently impacted.

I have several concerns about the scope and severity of the construction process.

1. It is my understanding that chemicals will be used to kill vegetation and exterminate rodents, etc. along the LIRR’s right-of-way.

Once absorbed into the ground, have studies been conducted to test how this may affect our ground water? Local wildlife?

To what degree will particle pollution (a mixture of solids and liquid droplets floating in the air), whether released directly from a specific source or in the form of complicated chemical reactions in the atmosphere,  affect the short and long term health and safety of New Hyde Park residents?

Unless these concerns can be answered in their entirety, this project should not move forward.

2. It is likely that constant, relentless and disturbing noise (of unknown decibels) and intense vibrations will result from the use of heavy construction equipment and vehicles used by workers for the construction.

The LIRR is not restricted from doing construction work 24/7 as long as their equipment and workers are within their right-of way.

I am not convinced that the LIRR studied the effects of such loud, sustained noise and vibration on nearby residents who live in the immediate vicinity of the construction site.

How will this level of noise pollution impact the health and safety of our neighborhoods? Unless these concerns are answered in their entirety, this project should not move forward.

3.  All types of buildings — residential homes and commercial properties — along the Main Line are at risk of sustaining structural damage to foundations, walls, facades, windows and frames, sidings, staircases, chimney sleeves,  heating and air conditioning systems, etc.

Has the LIRR estimated the cost of potential damage to area residents and business owners?  Who is responsible for the repair of this damage?

In the event of an accident during construction requiring the evacuation of residents in the immediate area, where do they go?

Who pays for their temporary housing? Who are the responsible agents who will respond to these and other needs by those affected?   Will utility delivery systems be altered in any way?  How will this impact safety and security of our neighborhoods? Unless these concerns are answered in their entirety, this project should not move forward.

4. Parking in our community is presently restricted.  Commuters, shoppers, apartment dwellers, merchants and their employees all must follow our village ordinances.

Parking lots will be taken over for construction-related staging of equipment, supplies, trucks, etc.

Where will these construction workers and the LIRR commuters park their cars so that New Hyde Park residents can maintain some semblance of safety and normalcy in the interim?

Unless these concerns are answered in their entirety, this project should not move forward.

5. Construction trucks, equipment, deliveries of materials, men working and unanticipated conditions will slow and/or alter traffic and traffic patterns and pedestrian walkways to schools, public buildings, offices, restaurants, parks and shops will be disrupted.

Has the LIRR studied the direct and indirect consequences of such challenges to our health, safety and property values?  Has the LIRR studied how construction will impact critical services from first responders like the New Hyde Park Fire Department, Nassau Country Police, ambulances, etc. ?

Unless these concerns are answered in their entirety, this project should not move forward.

Additionally, while I favor the concept of at-grade crossing eliminations in New Hyde Park, I vehemently oppose the current proposals at Covert Ave., South 12th Street, and New Hyde Park Road as presented in the scoping document because I believe these  plans jeopardize our economic stability, environment, and suburban quality of life – during the construction process and after its completion.

1.  Regarding the proposed takings of business properties, the resulting loss of tax base will burden New Hyde Park taxpayers who reside in our community.

While our school district could be compensated if it lost its own property to such projects, it cannot be compensated for the loss of tax base that result from the condemnation and elimination of businesses in the area.

Thus, the remaining taxpayers, all the citizens who reside the “11040” area, will be forced to pick up the costs which result from these losses in the form of higher school taxes and higher property taxes.  That is unacceptable.

2.  The scope and severity of LIRR Expansion Project — in its entirety — will negatively influence the daily operation of regular school business in New Hyde Park.

Thus, one can reasonably expect that the quality of our children’s education will be compromised in the process.  It is evident that the parents of the NHP-GCP School District value high educational standards and advocate for a myriad of educational opportunities and experiences for their children.

Has the LIRR conducted studies that assess this “human cost” – namely, this anticipated negative impact to the educational process of our children?

3.  The LIRR and the New York State Department of Transportation have made proposals that will cause permanent changes and challenges to our neighborhood and our suburban quality of life.

The potential urbanization that may result from these proposals not only can threaten our quality of life but also our economic stability in terms of property values — both during and after construction.

Thus, I will settle for nothing less than the best plan for my community.

The MTA-LIRR and all state level agencies and elected representatives of the mainline communities must: explore all alternatives which promote safety, reduce roadway congestion, and preserve our suburban lifestyle;  promote the absolute best plan that inflicts the least collateral damage to homes, business properties, and most importantly the health and safety of New Hyde Park residents at large — regardless of its cost; negotiate respectfully with all citizens who are directly and indirectly impacted so that they do not suffer unfair economic hardship due to declining property values.

Furthermore, 10 years ago it was the “reverse commute,” and then it became “the multi-billion dollar passing lane.”

And, the MTA-LIRR still proclaims “the project is not about freight” despite the expressed demand for increased freight rail capacity by such business organizations as the Long Island Association, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, and the Long Island Mid Suffolk Business Action which resulted in the establishment of a new mega-freight yard in Suffolk County known as the Long Island Truck Rail Intermodal Project.

Based on this evidence, increased freight rail traffic will have a direct and negative impact on the quality of life of all residents who live along the Main Line — including my neighborhood in New Hyde Park.

Increasing the capacity of freight rail traffic justifies our immediate concern about noise/vibration pollution, air pollution, and most importantly, the potential for freight derailments and other accidents.

Daytime off-peak freight trains already traverse Main Line communities, many with uncovered container cars hauling debris and garbage, which is against regulations and litters the communities and potentially causes harm to health of residents living in the area.

Do the LIRR, village, town and county government agencies have the necessary resources and funds to monitor these issues as well as address the immediate consequences of a catastrophic accident that may involve potentially hazardous kinds of cargo passing through our neighborhoods?

Unless these concerns are answered in their entirety, this project should not move forward.

In conclusion, as a result of the aforementioned concerns, I remain vehemently opposed to the LIRR Expansion Project.  As a New York State taxpayer, I do not want my tax dollars supporting a project that clearly creates many more challenges than solutions.

Diane Bentivegna

New Hyde Park

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