July 27, 2017
I would like to provide you with an update on the LIRR Third Track Project.
I am sure you are aware that the project cleared its final hurdle and is going forward. The State Senate cleared the way earlier this month by deciding not to veto the $1.9 billion amendment to the MTA capital plan. This after waiting for New Hyde Park and Floral Park to complete our negotiations with the LIRR and the Governor’s office to address the serious concerns raised by our respective residents.
It has been reported that the Senate’s approval was contingent upon receiving word from the Villages of New Hyde Park and Floral Park that we approved of the project. This is not accurate. The villages did not approve of the project. New Hyde Park never had a vote in whether the project gets done or not. Although we certainly made known our doubts over the need for many elements of the project, the decision to move forward was made by the elected officials in Albany.
Our concern has focused on how the project would be done in our communities. The villages reached an agreement with the MTA, LIRR and the Governor’s office on how the concerns expressed by our residents would be addressed. The senators enabled us to reach an acceptable agreement with the LIRR.
To minimize those effects, and with the approval of the Village Board, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the LIRR that describes the commitments the LIRR will make to address the concerns that many of you raised.
The insistence by Senator Elaine Phillips and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan that these concerns be addressed to our satisfaction, made it possible to achieve the necessary commitments from the Governor’s team. I would like to express my profound appreciation to Senators Philips and Flanagan.
Our legal team worked around the clock and interfaced with multiple parties in the Governor’s Office, the LIRR and the MTA to protect our residents. I would also like to thank Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi and his team, Trustee Archie Cheng and Village Administrator Gerry Bambrick for standing with New Hyde Park in addressing our common concerns.
The Agreement we signed is not a panacea for all issues, but lays out a fair and reasonable approach for dealing with unintended consequences of the project. The MOU provides an insurance policy of sorts that the project will be done in a way that is sensitive to the concerns that residents have raised. Our goal was to try to better balance the cost / benefit equation for New Hyde Park. We believe that has been accomplished.
More specifically, our agreement with the LIRR includes among other things, the following:
Three at grade crossings will be eliminated in New Hyde Park in way that is sensitive to our community character and not only preserves, but ultimately improves our suburban quality of life.
New Hyde Park, and other villages, will have a seat at the table in reviewing proposals and designs and timetables. Village input will continue throughout the life of the project. This is critical in the design / build construction method when plans are likely to change quickly.
Deference will be given to the village on aesthetic issues and a consistent appealing architectural theme will be prevalent throughout all structures.
New Hyde Park residents will judge how well contractors perform and determine if contractors are rewarded or penalized for behavior that affects safety and quality of life.
Escalating financial penalties will accrue to the village if the contractor fails to meet scheduled milestones.
A $2.7 M fund will be established for New Hyde Park to draw from to pay for qualified expenses incurred as a result of the project, or to make improvements to offset inconveniences.
The village will review and approve traffic patterns for detours and construction equipment.
The LIRR will pay for repairs to roads, buildings and properties that are damaged because of the project.
A decorative sound wall will reduce noise and will be softened with landscaping provided by the LIRR.
The village will be consulted on construction plans and schedules to minimize impacts.
The contractor will establish a communication plan to alert residents and merchants to disruptions. The design/builder will have a point of contact for all resident and village concerns, including a 24/7 hotline where all issues will be logged and responded to within 24 hours. A governmental liaison will be available for the village to escalate unresolved issues.
The LIRR will work with the utilities and the contractor to avoid installing the massive 90 feet tall steel utility poles that have been planned to run along the railroad. All parties will work together with a goal to bury the utilities where feasible.
The parties will work together to find the least disruptive and feasible drainage solution.
The LIRR is projecting to add 10 daily commuter train stops at New Hyde Park.
The project will not result in a reduction in parking at the New Hyde Park station over current capacity.
The contractor will install a muni-meter system to replace the current voucher parking for non-resident parking. All parking revenue will be retained by the Village.
The Village will reduce its annual lease payment for parking spaces paid the LIRR from $40,000 per year to $1 per year.
The ongoing dialogue among New Hyde Park, the Governor’s office, the MTA and the LIRR has opened new opportunities for us to work collaboratively for the benefit of New Hyde Park. The immediate benefits that resulted from these discussions that are not directly related to the Third Track Project includes:
- The set aside of $5 M to establish a small retail district near the railroad station.
- Access to an additional $5 M in state grants for downtown development of this site.
- Funding of $800,000 for New Hyde Park’s on-going Road Improvement Program.
- Prioritization for funding a new Department of Public Works garage.
In addition, I recently met with Congresswoman Rice’s office to explore obtaining federal funds to assist in these and other projects.
As the project is now moving forward, circumstances demand that our goals now shift to take a very impactful project and have it built out in a way that when completed, actually enhances the village character.
We have a very rare opportunity to greatly improve the suburban character of our village in a way that we would otherwise be unable to do. Our efforts over the last 18 months and especially over the last month of very intensive negotiations has brought us to the verge of seizing this opportunity.
There is little doubt that this project will result in significant adverse impacts, hardships and reduced quality of life during two years of construction. Make no mistake, we are in for severe disruptions. And those impacts will not be limited to the areas immediately adjacent to the railroad. All areas of the village are likely to experience effects. However, when completed, I am confident the project will serve as an impetus for greater improvements in the suburban quality of life we cherish.
Lawrence J. Montreuil