THIRD TRACK UPDATE: Beveridge & Diamond and the Vertex Companies, Inc. Issue Reports that the MTA/LIRR Draft Environmental Impact Statement Fails to Comply with SEQRA Standards

In response to the MTA/LIRR Expansion Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Beveridge & Diamond and The Vertex Companies, the law firm and environmental and engineering firm retained by the villages of Floral Park, Garden City and New Hyde Park with support from the Town of Hempstead, filed their Comments and Technical Review on behalf of the Villages.

The Technical Review of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Vertex, which thoroughly reviews key aspects of the DEIS, is a lengthy document and may be accessed at the following six links (a single document, but broken into six links because of its size)

2017-02-14 DEIS Review Report_FINAL

2017-02-14 Attachment A DEIS Review Report

2017-02-14 Attachment B DEIS Review Report

2017-02-14 Attachment C DEIS Review Report

2017-02-14 Attachment D DEIS Review Report

2017-02-14 Attachment E DEIS Review Report

The Comment Letter of Beveridge & Diamond can be viewed at the following link,  and it summarizes these key points from the Vertex Report and details additional deficiencies in the DEIS.

2017-02-14 B&D Comments to LIRR Main Line Expansion Project DEIS Final

As set forth in the Beveridge & Diamond Comment Letter, the MTA/LIRR, by failing to provide crucial information regarding specific impacts and detailed analysis of how impacts will be addressed, have denied the most “impacted communities the ability to meaningfully participate in the environmental review process, as is their right under SEQRA.”  As Beveridge & Diamond summarizes:

The DEIS –while a lengthy document – is largely superficial. It provides some additional detail on the Project. But it does not properly and concretely analyze impacts that will likely result from the Project. The DEIS is neither data driven nor analytical. It should be both. In other instances, the required analysis is either flawed or completely missing. These deficiencies are readily apparent in a number of the DEIS Chapters, while identifying other deficiencies required the expertise of Vertex, at great expense to the Villages. (The Villages recognize the support of Supervisor Santino and the Town of Hempstead regarding the Villages’ concerns with respect to this Project.) 

The DEIS exposes a hasty rush to complete the environmental review process at all costs.  What the public is left with remains vague and largely conceptual in nature. When environmental impacts are not actually identified and quantified, they cannot be adequately analyzed, nor can specific mitigation measures be explored let alone pinpointed. The DEIS instead merely promises that impacts will be figured out later as part of the “design build” process, and “plans” that have yet to be prepared will be used to mitigate those as yet unidentified impacts. The DEIS therefore reads more like an expanded scoping document than an environmental impact statement.

Beveridge & Diamond Comment Letter at page 2.

The Village of Floral Park has forwarded these documents to our Federal, State and local elected officials and asked them to review these documents. We believe that once they do, they will concur that, in order to protect the residents and businesses of our Village, the MTA/LIRR should to use the comments of Beveridge & Diamond and the Technical Review of Vertex, together with the comments from other members of the public, to prepare a corrected DEIS, and re-initiate a new public review and comment period.

The environmental review process under SEQRA, if conducted responsibly by the lead agency, can afford very real protections to residents and businesses in the impacted area. By failing to conduct this process responsibly, the MTA/LIRR is putting our residents and businesses at risk.  As our counsel concludes:

“Governor Cuomo promised an open and informative process.   This DEIS falls well short of that promise.  A new DEIS should be prepared and reissued for public review and comment to ensure that the Project’s environmental review complies with SEQRA’s basic requirements.   Once impacts are properly identified, and concrete mitigation measures are developed to address those impacts in a revised DEIS, and the public is given a meaningful opportunity to review and comment on that document, the final EIS should confirm that all such mitigation measures are part of the basis of design in the Project bid documents.”         

Beveridge & Diamond Comment Letter at page 30

That is what the Village of Floral Park seeks. First, the MTA should be required to demonstrate that this $2 billion, and growing, project is necessary and the benefits out weigh the problems it will cause. The MTA /LIRR clearly has not done that to date. Nonetheless, if this project is to proceed, the specific impacts and necessary mitigation steps must be identified and incorporated into legally enforceable contract documents for the protection and benefit of our residents. The MTA/LIRR’s failings, first with respect to the Scoping Process and now with respect to the DEIS, unjustly prevent such protections from being identified, vetted transparently with the public, and incorporated into the contract documents for the benefit of the public.

ADA Compliance at the Floral Park Station

The Beveridge & Diamond Comment Letter and the Vertex Technical Review address the issues with the DEIS that are of common concern to the Villages of Garden City, Floral Park and New Hyde Park. The Village of Floral Park also requested Beveridge & Diamond and Vertex to review a particular concern to our residents and which is an issue that this Village Board and prior Village Boards have pressed with the MTA/LIRR for years – – that is that the Floral Park LIRR Station must be made handicap accessible. Attached are the Beveridge & Diamond and Vertex reviews of the MTA/LIRR’s failure to bring Floral Park’s station into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Not surprisingly at all, both Vertex and Beveridge & Diamond confirm that the MTA must make the Floral Park LIRR Station ADA compliant if this project is to proceed, and should do so whether this Third Track Project proceeds or not.

2017-02-14 BD Comments to Expansion Project DEIS – Floral Park ADA Compl…

ADA Review Compliance_2017.2.13_with appendices

 

Village Comments sent to DEIS 

Village of Floral Park Comments to DEIS pt 1

Village of Floral Park Comments to DEIS pt 2

George Lawlor Comments to DEIS 2 11 17