After weeks of negotiations, meetings and phone calls to work to preserve and protect our great communities, Floral Park and New Hyde Park along with the help of Stewart Manor have reached agreement with Governor Cuomo and the MTA/LIRR on a pact aimed at protecting and preserving our community and our quality of life should the proposed LIRR 3rd Track Expansion Project come to fruition. While we would like nothing more than this project to be eliminated, we have entered into this Memorandum of Understanding so that, if the project becomes a reality, Floral Park will be afforded measures of protection to help preserve the community we all cherish.
I should establish some history and background here because I want everyone to understand that Mayor Montreuil and his staff from New Hyde Park, Trustee Cheng, Village Administrator Gerry Bambrick, and I, with the guidance of our counsel in this matter, Michael Murphy, Esq. of Beveridge & Diamond, together with the support of Mayor Onorato from Stewart Manor, embarked on talks and negotiations with the MTA/LIRR and the Governor’s office to work towards establishing an agreement that would provide the protection, safety and security our collective communities needed and required should this 3rd Track Project be approved. Priority issues for these discussions included topics such as: traffic, drainage, construction mitigation items, communication plans, parking, soil testing, etc. We were well aware of the fact that there may be inconveniences associated with construction along the way, and other compensations were discussed as well. These agreements were negotiated in a good faith effort with the well-being and concern of our residents and businesses as the utmost priority.
There were major bumps along the way. For example, on June 15th, Newsday issued an editorial whereby it was stated that I had received a letter from LIRR Vice President Mark Hoffer “responding to a host of additional requests” including a proposed “special fund that would provide millions of dollars to Floral Park alone with no strings attached.” This was the furthest thing from the truth. My proposal was a concept idea that would have been used for all municipalities involved and was only offered because the Governor’s representative asked for it as they were deciding how their proposed Community Fund would work. This was a collaborative effort by all parties working on a detail of an agreement that was turned into an issue by the media to placate certain special interest groups. It is always important to make certain all facts and intentions are noted and understood during these negotiations, and this only works when honest and open dialogue occurs.
You have all seen the negative and threatening mailings urging our NYS Senators, Elaine Phillips and Kemp Hannon, to vote for the 3rd Track Project. Senator Phillips has and will continue to work very closely with us to ensure that the needs and concerns of our communities are given the utmost attention and that those needs are addressed and met with results. To have these two individuals ridiculed in mailings by special interest groups may be how others work, but Senator Phillips has held everyone involved to a high standard and continued to forge forward keeping our interests and quality of life at heart. I want to thank her for her many hours of conversation, guidance and work in this regard.
While we may truly disagree on the merits of this 3rd Track Project, its timing in relation to other issues plaguing the Long Island Railroad and justification of a $2 billion expense, there are positive aspects to the project. Those are the elimination of grade level crossings, something we have endorsed, the upgrade of switches and track infrastructure and, in Floral Park’s case, ADA compliant access to the tracks. Again, while we still believe these items should have been done years ago and in a routine matter, having them addressed will be beneficial.
A major advantage to this agreement is the 3rd track communication program to be established. This communication program will provide avenues to plan, collaborate, get answers, check on details and aspects of the project as well as make certain that, as issues arise, these issues are addressed in an expeditious and concrete manner so that they do not interfere with the daily lives of our residents and business owners.
As of the time of this writing, approval of the project is still pending. Should it progress, we will have this agreement in place to help protect and preserve our great community. Should the project be delayed or ultimately rejected, our community will continue to remain vigilant as to our future. Either way, through collaborative and constructive efforts, we will keep Floral Park the great place it is to live, work and raise a family.