Tag Archives: Thomas Prendergast

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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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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MTA Bus Time scheduled to come to Queens within weeks


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Queens commuters will soon be able to track when the next bus will arrive.

MTA Bus Time, which allows riders to follow real-time location of buses through any web-enabled smartphone or computer via GPS, should be coming to the borough within weeks, according to the agency.

“We have completed borough-wide installations in Queens and Brooklyn and are currently fine-tuning software. We are on schedule to go on line in the next several weeks,” MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz said.

MTA Bus Time users can also text an intersection or street address to 511123 to receive a message listing local bus routes or find out information by using a smartphone with a QR-code reader. The QR-code is printed on the Guide-A-Ride schedules posted at bus stops.

The technology started serving all of Staten Island’s bus routes in January 2012. It was later expanded to include all Bronx and Manhattan routes as well as Brooklyn’s B63 and B61 lines.

The MTA said in October 2013 that it would be expanding Bus Time to Queens and remaining routes within the next six months.

Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder has been pushing for the MTA to implement the technology throughout Queens and to set a start date for its launch.

He sent a letter to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast last week asking him to immediately expand its use in the entire borough.

“Waiting for a bus in Queens should not be a guessing game,” Goldfeder said.

Goldfeder stressed the importance of Bus Time in Queens, saying it would improve local bus service and help ease congestion on roadways.

“[Bus Time] is the perfect solution to make public transportation more accessible and efficient to keep traffic moving,” Goldfeder said.

“I’m excited to see a successful program come to Queens residents,” he added.

 

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Pols call for review of ‘G’ train performance


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of State Senator Michael Gianaris

An important transit option for Queens and Brooklyn, local politicians are calling for the MTA to review the “G” line and its numerous service issues.

The train, which travels from Long Island City to Kensington, Brooklyn, and is the only subway line that doesn’t go through Manhattan, was extended recently to Church Avenue.

But that change didn’t remedy other issues, such as frequency of trains, communication with riders about service changes and disruptions, and the lack of free out-of system transfers.

These complaints were highlighted in a recent petition campaign by the Riders Alliance, and in a letter to the MTA’s interim president, Thomas Prendergast.

Sent by State Senators Daniel Squadron and Martin Malavé Dilan, the letter asked for a full performance review of the “G” line, as the MTA did with the “F” and “L” trains.

The request is also supported by over a dozen other politicians and transit advocates.

“Constant service disruptions, a lack of service change notifications and increased commuter expenses due to limited free transfers make clear that the MTA treats the G train like the ugly duckling of the MTA system,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, who attended the Rally For a Better G Train held in Williamsburg yesterday. “It should provide commuters with direct, convenient access between Queens and Brooklyn, rather than forcing travel through Manhattan to get from one borough to the other.”

“The G Train is critical to residents and businesses throughout Brooklyn and a key connection for the growing number of workers commuting between Brooklyn and Queens. Everything possible should be done to ensure this important subway line keeps pace with the thriving communities it serves,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

 

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