Readers Write: LIRR’s Elmont station plans questioned

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There are good reasons for “Floral Park officials seek more time on Belmont plan” (Aug. 9). What is the potential impact of any remaining Agent Orange in the soil at the proposed Elmont Long Island Rail Road station to be located in Bellerose Terrace for the future Belmont Islanders Arena?

During the 1970s, Agent Orange was sprayed on LIRR right of ways. Was it used at this site? How many weeks or months would be needed to complete this research? Did the Empire State Development Corporation look into this issue as part of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act under the Environmental Impact Statement process? If not, will they issue an addendum to the proposed draft Belmont Arena EIS, which was previously released? What role will the federal Environmental Protection Agency, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and any other regulatory or permitting agencies play? If so, how long will this process take?

According to the ESDC spokesman conducting a recent public outreach meeting with residents of Bellerose Terrace on July 31,  he stated that “prior to start of construction at the Elmont LIRR station, test soil borings would be performed to check on the status of any Agent Orange.”

Why would you not conduct test soil borings as part of the environmental review process, prior to issuing a formal environmental finding documenting no significant adverse project impacts rather than afterwards? Perhaps the spokesman had an incorrect understanding of how a proper state or federal environmental review process is supposed to be conducted and concluded.  

If Agent Orange is found in the soil at the proposed Elmont LIRR Station site, there are new questions to deal with. How long will it take to safely remove any contaminated soil? This could take several weeks or months depending upon the levels and amounts of contaminated soil found. Could this impact delay completion for the eastbound south side platform of the station within the next 27 months, as promised by EDC, MTA and LIRR in time to coincide with the Islanders Belmont Arena October 2021 opening? What about the overpass and west bound north side platform by 2023? Was the cost to deal with potential Agent Orange site contamination included within the proposed $105 million dollar budget?

Remember neither Gov. Cuomo nor ESDC, MTA or LIRR have yet to make public details of the project budget, procurement strategy, LIRR force account plan (their own employees), track outage plan and detailed construction schedule to validate both the $105 million cost and project completion plans from start to finish to coincide with the Islanders Belmont Arena opening 27 months away. Who will pay for and how much will the cost be for soil remediation work, including test site soil borings be?

In January 2018, former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota informed the Empire State Development Corporation that there is no current Penn Station capacity to support new Belmont Park service. He said that his agency must first perform a planning study. The study started in July with a promised completion date by the end of September. Why the 11-month delay in making it public? They have yet to make a presentation to the monthly LIRR or full MTA Committee board meetings.  he MTA has never publicly committed to a new schedule and date for release of the study.

What happened to open transparency promised by Gov. Cuomo for all state agencies and public authorities, including ESDC, MTA and LIRR? Is there something within the study contents they want to continue to hide from commuters, taxpayers and elected officials?  Cuomo promised to conduct the most transparent and open administration in the history of state government. This should apply to any capital project, environmental review or planning study managed by ESDC, MTA or LIRR.  Concerned residents, commuters, taxpayers and local elected officials deserve sufficient answers to these most reasonable concerns before any construction begins on the Belmont Islanders Arena and new Elmont LIRR Station.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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