Tag Archives: LIRR

LIRR Mets-Willets Point Station getting $9.7 million makeover


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Long Island Rail Road ‘s Mets-Willets Point Station will be getting a $9.7 million renovation that calls for, among other things, an elevator to ease access from the platform to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the National Tennis Center and Citi Field, according to the MTA.

The funds come from the MTA and plans are currently being made for the project to be completed by 2016. The MTA hasn’t made a decision about the designs for the additions. But the plans are being designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by installing tactile warning strips at the edges of the platform and constructing new staircases with guardrails and handrails. An MTA spokesman said that designs will be complete by 2015

“The MTA and the Long Island Rail Road are committed to doing our part so LIRR customers with disabilities can attend the U.S. Open, Mets games and other special events that come to Flushing Meadows Park,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said.

The renovations also include the extension of the platform to accommodate 12-car trains, a new canopy fully covering the platform, and new lighting and communication systems.

The Mets-Willets Point Station, located on the railroad’s Port Washington Branch, is strictly a special events station, open only when the Mets are playing or the U.S. Open is underway. The station was opened in 1964 for the 1964-65 World’s Fair but it was built without special accommodations for people with mobility impairments.

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Elmhurst community grows garden next to LIRR tracks for over 20 years, agency unaware


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Updated Friday, July 25, 12:20 p.m.

 

Something is growing in the Long Island Railroad’s backyard.

But the MTA said it was unaware of hundreds of feet of community gardens snuggled against the railroad tracks in Elmhurst, mere feet from moving trains and in plain view of commuters looking out from train windows.

Elmhurst residents living down 47th Avenue between 76th and 82nd streets have been keeping the gardens, growing everything from flowers to vegetables for more than 20 years, according to one of the urban farmers, who declined to give his name.

These gardens are found behind the apartment buildings lining the avenue and are cared for by residents of the buildings.

The resident said he has been coming to the gardens to pick vegetables for the past 10 years as he picked a zucchini and hot peppers to bring home.

There is only one entrance to these gardens: through a hole cut through a fence that separates the buildings from the tracks.

Although surrounded by garbage, couches and tire rims, the vegetable and flower gardens are well kept. Residents have developed a path to allow visitors to move around the gardens.

One resident said he sees one or two people come in and out of the gardens every morning.

Community Board 4 said it was not aware of the gardens but that residents in the communities surrounding Elmhurst tend to take vacant plots of land and turn them into something useful, mostly gardens.

When asked about these particular gardens, which are on MTA/LIRR property, an LIRR spokesman said there are no records of any formal authorization given to residents at that location.

According to the spokesman, the MTA has a policy that allows individuals and entities to enter into “year-to-year agreements to maintain gardens on MTA agency property, subject to certain requirements.”

The LIRR instructed The Courier to “have [the gardeners] call our real estate person, John Coyne.”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that an MTA spokesman declined to answer questions directly regarding safety.

 

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Bayside outdoor concert series to start next month


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Get ready to rock, Bayside.

The Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) signed a lease with the MTA for the small green space on 41st Avenue adjacent to the LIRR station house, hoping to hold an outdoor concert series this year and other activities, officials said.

The BID sent out a request for proposals, seeking a contractor to clean up and maintain the area. They hope to choose a contractor soon, and begin the concert series in August on Thursday nights, featuring local performers such as Baysider Michael Kormusis, who goes by the stage name The Mikey K Project.

Because the area is small, officials don’t expect to draw a big crowd, but to attract people to the area and nearby Bell Boulevard as they commute.

“What we are looking to do with that property is to have a pass-by space to slow people down as they are getting on or off the train,” said Lyle Sclair, the executive director of the BID.

Since two years ago, the BID has used the space for its holiday lighting show by dressing up the spot’s evergreen, and adding a nativity scene and menorah. In the future, they plan to collaborate with local organizations to promote services and add other activities.

In the meantime, BID officials are just focused on cleaning up the property, which is unkempt with an uncut lawn.

“Right now we just want to make sure the property look good,” Sclair said. “We just don’t want it to be a dead space in the community.”

 

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LIRR strike averted: MTA and unions reach deal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sara Touzard

Updated 2:40 p.m.

MTA officials and LIRR unions came to a tentative agreement Thursday, avoiding a workers’ strike that would have stranded 300,000 commuters daily. 

Union negotiators and MTA representatives worked through Wednesday night on the deal, and talks continued with Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.

“Next week if there was a strike it would have been a really problematic situation of the highest level,” Cuomo said. “So this is very good news.”  

LIRR workers will see a 17 percent wage increase over six and a half years with the new agreement. The MTA wanted a 17 percent wage increase over seven years, while the union desired it over six years. The deal settled the impasse between both sides and will allow the MTA to pay for the salary bump while not increasing fares for riders. 

Through the agreement, the transit workers will contribute a percent of their wages toward health care costs, which they currently do not, and new employees will have different wage progressions and pension plan contributions. 

The agreement still needs to be approved by the eight Long Island Rail Road unions’ executive boards, ratified by the members and approved by the MTA board.

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DiNapoli: LIRR strike could cost $50M a day


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy the MTA


It could be a total lose-lose situation.

Not only will 300,000 riders be denied LIRR service in the event of a strike, but the work stoppage could cost up to $50 million each day in economic activity, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Tuesday.

“A LIRR strike would cause headaches and financial hardships for riders and businesses. It would also be another devastating blow to a region that is still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy and the recession,” DiNapoli said. “Both sides must go the extra mile to reach a reasonable settlement so we can avoid the costly impact of a strike and the millions of dollars in lost economic activity.”

DiNapoli said the strike would impact people who use the railroad to connect to attractions in the city, such as Broadway shows, restaurants and shopping. It would also deter people from reaching spots on Long Island such as beaches, golf courses and wineries.

Despite the gloomy economic forecast, there seems to be no sign of an agreement forthcoming.

On Monday talks again derailed between the eight unions that represent the LIRR workers and MTA officials, which prompted union lead negotiator Anthony Simon to say that “the strike will begin 12:01 a.m. this Sunday.”

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said that there is a “gulf” between the transportation agency and the unions and “until they’re ready to move there’s no reason to have negotiations.”

The MTA will release an advertisement on Wednesday on radio stations and newspapers asking the unions “when is enough, enough?”

 

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LIRR unions: Strike will happen on Sunday


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sara Touzard


Talks once again broke down between the MTA and LIRR union representatives on Monday and with no further negotiations scheduled, the looming workers’ strike will occur, according to union officials.  

“I regret to report that negotiations have collapsed with MTA, and all eight unions are now proceeding with strike plans for July 20,” said Anthony Simon, the lead negotiator representing the unions. “The strike will begin 12:01 a.m. this Sunday.”

About 5,400 workers are expected to go on strike starting on July 20, leaving 300,000 riders stranded daily.

The MTA released a contingency plan on Friday to address options for thousands of riders.

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said on Monday that there is a “gulf” between the agency and the unions, which stems from the payment of employee health benefits.

LIRR workers would see a 17 percent wage increase over seven years in the MTA’s latest offer, but be required to pay toward health care costs, which employees currently don’t.

Also, future employees would pay higher rates toward health care and pensions than current ones. The unions argue that the deal would hurt future workers and they maintain that they want 17 percent raises stretched over six years.

Prendergast said that the unions haven’t budged at all during negotiations.

“We have moved three times,” he said. “Until they’re ready to move there’s no reason to have negotiations.”

 

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What to do if there is an LIRR strike


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Metropolitan Transportation Authority


Subways, shuttle buses, and even ferries– the MTA is pulling out all the stops to supplement LIRR service in case 5,400 workers strike starting on July 20.

As contract negotiations with unions continue to fall apart and the impending LIRR strike draws closer each day, the MTA released its contingency plan Friday to address the 300,000 riders that would be stranded daily with the loss of the train service.

Most of the MTA’s plans focus on Long Island customers, but there are resources and tips for riders from Queens and other boroughs.

There will be 4,000 free, secured parking spots at Citi Field and an additional 3,000 spots at Aqueduct Racetrack, where drivers can drop their cars and then take the No. 7 or A trains to work. Through social media and digital platforms, such as Twitter and a LIRR mobile app, agency officials plan to update riders on how many spots are available in the lots and traffic conditions.

The transportation agency also hired 350 school buses, which lack air condition, to shuttle riders from stations in Long Island to the No. 7 train near Citi Field, the A train in Howard Beach, and also the M and R train station on Woodhaven Boulevard. The buses will run from Long Island into Queens between 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. and return to Long Island from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

There will also be ferry rides that can carry 1,000 passengers per day from Glen Cove to 34th Street in Manhattan on 40 minute rides. But the MTA warns that parking near to the ferry is very limited.

The MTA is encouraging riders to telecommute if they can work from home. According to officials, about 18,000 workers already plan to do so.

Through its free lots and shuttle buses, the transportation agency estimates it can handle about 15,000 passengers daily, more than double the 7,000 passengers daily from the 1994 LIRR strike contingency plan.

“When the LIRR unions went on strike in 1994, Long Islanders had very limited options. There were no park-and-ride lots, no ferries, no real-time monitoring, no telecommuting,” said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast. “Today, the MTA has a far stronger, more robust, multifaceted plan. Working with the state and elected officials from across Long Island and the city of New York, we are providing more shuttle buses, thousands of parking spots near subway stations, a ferry service, real-time traffic management and real-time parking monitoring.”

The MTA doesn’t yet know how much per day the contingency plan will cost, and officials said they hope not to have to use it.

For more details on the plan, click here.

 

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Bayside rider sends foul message to potential LIRR strikers


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sal Licata


With the impending LIRR worker strike only nine days away, a rider in Bayside is sending a strong message to the unions that represent the employees.

“Let the a—-h— strike. F— -em!!!” said the vulgar messages, which were spotted by The Queens Courier scattered on sidewalks and a tree near the 41st Avenue Bayside LIRR station. The letters aren’t the only proof of the building frustration for the sides to reach a deal.

THE COURIER/Photo by Mike Shain

New York congressional leaders also announced their disappointment in a statement on Friday after MTA and union officials couldn’t reach a deal on Thursday despite extensive discussions. Though their message was made in a more formal manner.

“We are pleased that representatives from labor and management spent nearly five hours negotiating on Thursday in an effort to ensure the continued operations of the Long Island Rail Road,” the New York delegation said. “We remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached without any disruption of rail service, however, we are troubled that no further negotiations are currently scheduled. We strongly urge both parties to work through the weekend to reach a deal to benefit the diverse ridership of the Long Island Rail Road.”

About 5,400 workers are planning a work stoppage as early as July 20 if the MTA and unions representing the workers don’t come to an agreement on wages, leaving about 300,000 riders stranded daily.

The MTA announced a strike contingency plan on Friday, providing alternative routes, shuttle buses and other solutions for an estimated 15,000  riders per day in case of a work stoppage.

 

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Looming LIRR strike draws closer, Congress won’t intervene


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sara Touzard


The potential for a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) strike is moving full steam ahead as talks over wages between the eight unions representing workers and MTA officials continue to stall, and Congress said it won’t intervene.

The MTA began putting out ads in newspapers, television and radio outlets, as well as on its website and social media, to alert riders of the potential strike, which could occur as early as July 20.

MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast met with Congress members on July 9, following a failure in discussions with the National Mediation Board, but the lawmakers reportedly said it is “unlikely” that they would step in if a work stoppage occurred.

About 5,400 workers are planning to walk off the job, which would leave 300,000 riders stranded from Long Island, throughout Queens and other boroughs.

The MTA is planning “very limited,” weekday shuttle bus service to start within 24 to 48 hours of any strike, the agency said. But it warned, “Shuttle bus service should be your last resort.”

“We continue to hope that we can avoid a work stoppage at the bargaining table,”  Prendergast said. “But nevertheless, we want LIRR customers and all Long Island residents to be aware that there is a potential for a disruption of service and what that might mean.”

The MTA’s latest offer in June was for a 17 percent raise in wages, stretched over the next seven years without a change in pension. But the unions maintain that they want 17 percent raises over the next six years.

“[Prendergast] should be here in New York with the labor organizations, [not in Washington],” Anthony Simon, the lead labor negotiator, told the New York Times. “What is the chairman of the MTA doing 250 miles away from the solution?”

Governor Andrew Cuomo called for both sides to return to the bargaining table, after Congress members said they won’t step in.

“A strike is just not an option and would be a terrible failure by both the unions and the MTA,” Cuomo said. “The unions’ false belief that Congress would step in to mandate a settlement was a major impediment to any real progress. With this obstacle removed, it is now clear that the only path to resolution is at the bargaining table between the MTA and the unions, and they should proceed in good faith.”

 

 

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Douglaston station street plaza gets green light


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy the Department of Transportation

After months of negotiating, the Douglaston community will soon see its first street plaza.

Community Board 11 voted on Monday, June 16, to approve the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to implement the plaza near the LIRR station on 41st Avenue in July. The agency will extend the sidewalk into the turnaround where 235th Street and 41st Avenue meet to create the public plaza, while saving the traffic loop — which was a deal-breaker with the community.

The Douglaston Local Development Corporation (LDC) contacted the DOT last year for the street plaza, hoping that it would revitalize the businesses in the community by giving pedestrians a place to walk and rest while shopping and eating.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an instant solution,” said Dorothy Matinale, president of the Douglaston Village Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the LDC. “We’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out what we can do. Now, there will be some actual fruits of our labor.”

The plan eliminates about seven parking spaces, but adds 3,000 square feet of public space, new crosswalks, plants, umbrellas with movable tables and chairs, plants and granite blocks.

The LDC will be charged with maintaining the new plaza, and they plan to do so through fundraisers and private donations.
Despite the enthusiasm surrounding the plaza by many, some in the community voiced their opposition and concern. They fear traffic in the turnaround, which will be narrower after its makeover, could be slowed or backed up.

“It appears to me that there will be enough room in the turnaround for one car to turn around and leave,” said Eliot Socci, a resident of the neighborhood for 35 years and Douglaston Civic Association president. “By clipping the edges it might back up the traffic.”

 

 

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Freight train derails near Jamaica station, affects LIRR service


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo: MTA / Patrick Cashin

Updated Thursday, May 15 7:20 a.m.

A  NY & Atlantic Railway freight train derailed just east of the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station Wednesday, impacting transit service during the afternoon and evening commute, the MTA said.

Three cars from the freight train derailed just before 3 p.m., blocking one track, according to a spokesman for the agency.  No injuries were reported and and the cause of the derailment is under investigation.

As the evening commute started to wind down, eastbound service was operating on or close to schedule. The LIRR had to cancel four eastbound trains and delay about a dozen trains because of the derailment, according to the MTA.

The derailed cars were rerailed by the following morning, and the LIRR was operating normal rush hour service Thursday.

 

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Man fatally struck by LIRR train at Flushing-Main Street station


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Flushing LIRR

A man was killed after he apparently jumped in front of an LIRR train Wednesday night as it was pulling into the Flushing-Main Street station.

A Port Washington branch train heading to Penn Station struck the victim, identified as only an adult man, about 8:40 p.m., according to an MTA spokeswoman.

As the train slowed down and approached the stop, crew members saw the man about to jump onto the tracks, and applied the emergency brakes and blew the horn, the spokeswoman said. The train then hit the man, who did not survive.

The incident suspended service on the Port Washington branch until about 9:45 p.m., according to the MTA.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Thursday: Sun and clouds mixed. High 54. Winds W at 15 to 25 mph. Thursday night: A clear sky. Low 34. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: LIC Partnership Networking Night

Join the LIC Partnership for our next Networking Night at See.Me. Explore the gallery’s current exhibit Year in Review, opening during Armory Arts Week. Meet your business and community neighbors over a wine and cheese tasting with wines provided by SquareWine & Spirits and cheese from LIC newcomer Artisanal Premium Cheese. Starts at 6 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police find gun, drug stash in Sunnyside home

Cops busted a Sunnyside man Wednesday after uncovering an arsenal of guns, ammunition and drugs in his home. Read more: The Queens Courier

Queens man sold hundreds of counterfeit coins: police

A Queens man has been accused of selling hundreds of counterfeit silver dollars to three Long Island stores, police say. Read more: NBC New York

MTA to install cameras, audio recorders on MNR, LIRR trains
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday that it plans to install video cameras and audio recorders on most Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road trains. Read more: CBS New York/AP

‘Mansion Tax’ produces geyser of revenue for New York
These members of the 1 percent are bringing smiles to the state’s tax collectors. Read more: New York Post

‘Credible lead’ investigated in search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane
 Authorities say 18 ships, 29 planes and 6 helicopters are searching for two large objects deemed a “credible lead” in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. Read more: AP

More snow on the way for Sunday


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

Updated 5:00 p.m.

 

Ol’ man winter isn’t done just yet.

The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast snow from 2 to 4 inches, starting from this evening and continuing through Monday as temperatures drop to the 20s.

The NWS warned that the snow will bring hazardous travel due to reduced visibility and slippery roads, “especially during the Monday morning commute.”

The Department of Transportation suspended alternate side parking for Monday to help with snow removal. However, parking meters remain in effect.

In preparation for inclement weather, the city’s Department of Sanitation has issued a “snow alert,” starting at 11 a.m. The agency said its plows and spreaders will be ready.

To track the progress of DSNY clearing operations throughout the five boroughs, click here.

 

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Ridgewood newsstand razed, problems persists across street


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley

One long-standing Ridgewood problem down, and one more to go.

The troublesome newsstand on Metropolitan Avenue near Fresh Pond Road, which had been an eyesore in the community, attracting garbage and graffiti for more than two decades, has finally been taken out of sight.

The MTA/LIRR, which owned the land, demolished it on Friday with $100,000 allocated from Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley.

“After long delays from both the DOT (Department of Transportation) and LIRR, I am happy to see persistence pay off,” Crowley said.

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre 

Crowley called a press conference in 2009 with Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblymember Mike Miller to announce that they would remove the structure, and transform the space into a community garden.

But those promises were derailed due to complications with the LIRR and the DOT, which both have rights to the property.

The city was reluctant to have any work done in the area, according to Crowley, because of the renovations on the nearby bridge on Metropolitan Avenue.

Community leaders appreciate that the site has finally turned a corner, but now they want elected officials to focus on the other problem — literally across the street.

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre 

The DOT assumed control of the abandoned gas station on Metropolitan Avenue across from the newsstand site several years ago, but the property has also attracted graffiti. However, unlike the newsstand, the gas station is fenced in, meaning community volunteers can’t clean it up.

“The city takes available property, because they have to fix the bridge and then they let it go,” said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, which has cleaned up the newsstand site in the past. “They don’t keep it up, and this is a disgrace. If we, regular property owners, did that, we’d get fined.”

Photo courtesy Bob Holden

Plans aren’t complete for what the newsstand site will become, but for now the DOT “will make it nicer,” according to a Crowley spokesperson.

 

 

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