Tag Archives: LIRR

3.5 acres of on-campus land at York College will be home to new companies


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo and map courtesy of York College

Parts of Jamaica may look forlorn with many properties vacant or in need of repair, but its shopping district and its richness in transportation options could turn it into the next big thing for development.

Businesses from around the state and outside New York are vying to enter the neighborhood through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-free program at York College, which school officials are touting as a potential catalyst for a development explosion in downtown Jamaica.

York representatives told The Courier that they are in negotiations with many businesses looking to partner with the school in exchange for no corporate, sales or property taxes for 10 years, and move to a property near the school or build on a portion of 3.5 acres of vacant, government-owned land on campus.

The vacant property, called Site 9, was identified in a plan that school administrators submitted to the governor’s office in July. The site is bounded by Guy Brewer Boulevard, Liberty Avenue, 165th Street and South Road. A parking lot and green space at the Brewer Boulevard side of the block are not part of the development site.

That plan was submitted by CUNY to the state Commissioner for Economic Development and was recently approved.

The plan details the types of businesses York is hoping to attract, based on the school’s academic and research programs.

Although school representatives said they weren’t allowed to discuss the specific businesses that they are considering, those fields include pharmaceutical, medical device research and manufacturing, water resource management and purification, logistics, aviation, wireless technology, solar power companies and food science research and manufacturing.


School administrators said the partnering businesses will benefit not only students but also the neighborhood, which should see increased employment as a diversifying local business landscape becomes a magnet to attract other firms to the area.

“[The program] is moving in the right direction and we are quite excited,” said Earl Simons, director of government and community relations at York. “It provides potential opportunities for our students in terms of internships as well as important opportunities for the surrounding community.”

S- York Map 2

Near York College, the downtown Jamaica area hosts a comprehensive transportation hub. The AirTrain transports passengers to John F. Kennedy Airport in about 10 minutes, while the LIRR takes thousands of people to Manhattan daily in about 20 minutes. There are about 49 bus lines running through and around the area, and the E, J, Z and F subway lines are nearby.

There have been several recent moves to leverage this resource.

A 368-block rezoning was completed in downtown Jamaica in 2007 to allow more developments with commercial and residential uses.

And earlier this year, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a nonprofit that has been working to transform the neighborhood, announced the development of a $225 mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at the building it owns on 93-01 Sutphin Blvd. at Archer Avenue, just north of the LIRR/AirTrain complex.

Rendering courtesy Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

93-43 Sutphin Blvd. rendering courtesy of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

That followed the 2013 announcement of a 210-room, 24-story hotel on the south side of the LIRR complex at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd., a plot of land that is partly owned by the nonprofit.

The Development Corp is collaborating with York to help bring businesses to downtown Jamaica through the tax-free zone program, school officials said.

Businesses looking to set up shop in the tax-free zone need to appeal to several selection committees as well as school and state officials. While no immediate announcement of incoming companies is expected, York is confident in the program’s ability to be the push downtown Jamaica needs.

“It’s another tool to really spur development and economic opportunities and job creation,” Simons said. “It can only enhance all of the efforts that are taking place here.”

 

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Real estate roundup: New Rego Park building rendering revealed, controversial luxury building opening in Elmhurst


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of GF55 Partners

Revealed: 65-70 Austin Street, Rego Park

“The building, designed by GF55, will fit in perfectly with the other seven-story buildings that have been erected on the south side of Austin Street over the past decade or two. The structures have been filling in a formerly industrial low-rise strip, set up against the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line, right beside what used to be the Rego Park station, shuttered in 1962.” Read more [New York YIMBY]

Controversial High-End Building Opening as Part of Elmhurst ‘Renaissance’

“A controversial apartment building that was the subject of recent litigation is getting a luxury makeover as part of a hoped-for neighborhood “renaissance,” according to developers.” Read more [DNAinfo]

New program aims to battle the growing graffiti menace in parts of south Queens

“The residents of Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Woodhaven are about to find out as officials kick off a new anti-graffiti program on Wednesday. For the first time, the Queens Economic Development Corp. is heading the program funded by City Councilman Eric Ulrich.” Read more [New York Daily News]

Man seriously injured after jumping in front of LIRR train in Woodside: MTA  


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

Updated 2:00 p.m.

A 39-year-old man was seriously hurt Tuesday morning when he jumped in front of a train at the Long Island Rail Road Woodside station, the MTA said.

The man, a Sunnyside resident, was hit at about 10:30 a.m. after leaping from the platform into the path of a Ronkonkoma-bound train, according to the transit agency.

He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital with severe head and leg injuries.

Eastbound service from Penn Station, with the exception of the Port Washington branch, was suspended for about an hour because of the incident, the MTA said.

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Douglaston plaza opens near LIRR station


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Paul Vallone's office

The Douglaston pedestrian plaza has opened to the public.

The completion of the project, near the LIRR station on 41st Avenue, was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday with Councilman Paul Vallone and the Douglaston Local Development Corporation (LDC).

“I am thrilled that this plaza will provide a great place for my constituents to sit, socialize and enjoy life. And I look forward to seeing the local businesses flourish with increased foot traffic,” Vallone said.

The plaza eliminates about seven parking spaces but there will now be 3,000 square feet of public space with new crosswalks, plants, umbrellas with movable tables and chairs, and granite blocks.

Plans for the area were approved in July by Community Board 11, according to earlier reports. The LDC is charged with maintaining the new plaza, and they plan to do so through fundraisers and private donations.

The LDC contacted the Department of Transportation 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.

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Track work to disrupt LIRR weekend service beginning Oct. 4


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sara Touzard

Track work on the Long Island Rail Road will affect commuters along the Port Washington Branch on two consecutive weekends, Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 11-12.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, trains in both directions will run every hour instead of every half hour beginning at 12:26 p.m. and running through the rest of the day because of switch renewal work.

The next day, Sunday, Oct. 5, there will be no train service in either direction for a portion of the line from 3 p.m. until midnight.

Bayside will be the eastern terminus with shuttle buses operating in both directions between Bayside and Port Washington.

The next weekend, starting on Saturday, Oct. 11, one of the tracks in the Woodside area will be out of service for 27 hours. During this time, train service will be reduced to every hour.

Then on Sunday, Oct. 12, both tracks will be out of service from 3 p.m. to midnight.

Commuters going east will have to board Ronkonkoma Branch trains at Penn Station and transfer to buses at Woodside.

Going west, commuters at stations from Port Washington through Flushing-Main Street will need to board shuttle buses and transfer to trains at Woodside.

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Plan calls for return of Elmhurst LIRR station


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The wheels of the LIRR might soon be making a stop once again in Elmhurst — or at least in the next five years.

In the MTA’s 2015-2019 $32 billion Capital Program, released earlier this week, $40 million is being set aside to construct a new Long Island Rail Road station on the Port Washington Branch.

“A new Elmhurst station will provide commuter railroad service to this vibrant community,” the MTA said in the five-year plan said.

The proposed station elements include two new 12-car platforms, staircases, platform railings, platform shelters, ticket vending machines, lighting, communication and security systems, and site improvements, according to the capital plan.

There will also be elevator service at the Elmhurst station, which will be part of the Port Washington line.

In 2012, Councilman Daniel Dromm and US Rep. Joseph Crowley called on the Long Island Rail Road to reopen the station, which was located on Broadway between Cornish and Whitney avenues and was closed in 1985 due to low ridership, to meet the needs of the neighborhood’s growing population.

Last year, LIRR officials conducted a month-long survey to see if it made sense to bring the station back to the community,

Dromm said that although he finds this plan as a positive development, he still views it as just a proposal.

“Seeing the line item of $40 million for the LIRR Elmhurst stop in the MTA’s capital budget is a longtime coming and much welcomed development,” Dromm said. “However, this capital budget should be seen as a wish list. These projects are not currently fully funded nor approved by the state. I will continue to advocate for this stop, which would cut down commutes and help Elmhurst residents get to where they need to go with greater speed. I hope the MTA will turn this wish from the community into a reality.”

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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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