During the month of December PCAC Executive Director William Henderson, Associate Director Dr. Jan Wells and Transportation Planner Ellyn Shannon met with several NYS Assembly members as part of the Long Island Transit Coalition.
Bill Henderson’s group met with Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D) in Glen Cove. Assemblyman Lavine said that many members are generally supportive of transit and are in favor of the third track project, but that there is no strong champion in the Assembly for transit on Long Island and no organized group of members that could be expected to push for improvements to the area’s transit resources.
Dr. Wells’ group met with Assemblyman Rob Walker (R) in Hicksville who understood and supported LIRR track and station improvements. However, he noted that many of his constituents do not trust the MTA (LIRR) because of an ongoing issue of a local freight rail yard. Apparently MTA is refusing to put in writing their intentions with the property with regard to freight. As a result, the Ravitch Commission findings and the budget issues of MTA are clouded in voters’ minds by this backyard problem. Walker also mentioned that he is on the RemaiNY Task Force formed this year with two other Assembly colleagues. This group has traveled the State talking with young professionals, educational leaders, business owners and students in attempt to provide new initiatives that will lead to economic growth and a prosperous future for all New Yorkers. The Task Force is particularly focused on reviving the economy in distressed areas of upstate New York and Long Island. He indicated that there will be a Long Island Task Force hearing in March. When pressed, Walker, too, admitted that among legislators the leadership and a coalition for public transportation on Long Island aren’t there.
Ellyn Shannon and other coalition members met with Assemblymen Tom McKevitt (R) in Garden City who spoke about his support for the Third Track project up until the LIRR made the decision to not release the DEIS which is now negatively impacting many more homes in the area than he feels is necessary.
Ellyn also met with Assembly member Steve Engelbright (D) in East Setauket who said he was very interested in supporting the LIRR capital program. He also mentioned that there is a good site for a new rail yard near between the Stony Brook and St. James stations. Such a project would also then require electrification on the Port Jefferson line out to Stony Brook.
These meetings are a good start to getting assembly members aware of the LIRRCC and the transit issues on Long Island.