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Huntington’s commuters are being enticed to stop and appreciate the beautiful aspects of their hometown each day as they pass under the Long Island Rail Road tracks.

Dozens of parents, teachers and students in South Huntington’s Birchwood Intermediate School community have spent hours this August transforming the railroad and pedestrian overpass on Route 110/New York Avenue into a bright, colorful community mural.

“This is the hub of the community, it bridges Huntington and South Huntington,” said Annie Michaelian, former assistant principal at Birchwood. “We felt it would be a nice place to set a gift of beautification.”

It’s an opportunity you get once in a lifetime to do it together as a community.”

— Annie Michaelian

Barbara Wright, a fifth-grade teacher at Birchwood, said she proposed the idea to the School-Based Management Committee in March as a way of giving back to the community. Wright had previously done a similar — but much smaller, she stressed — mural with her Girl Scout Brownie troop in Blue Point. Michaelian said after mulling the idea over, she was on board.

“It’s an opportunity you get once in a lifetime to do it together as a community,” she said.

School officials reached out to the Town of Huntington, gaining the support of Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) for the project as it gained momentum. Next, the SBM committee held a meeting with LIRR representatives in late June, as the organization owns the railroad and pedestrian overpasses, according to Michaelian, to get full approval for the mural before going full steam ahead.

Wright had Birchwood students, like 11-year-old Danny Ryan, draw and sketch out what the mural should represent.

We tried to think of the beautiful side of Huntington and come up with ideas, then put them together into the mural.”

— Danny Ryan

“We tried to think of the beautiful side of Huntington and come up with ideas, then put them together into the mural,” Danny said.

Area residents should be able to easily identify some of the iconic landmarks painted on the overpass including the Huntington Lighthouse and the southwest entrance to Heckscher Park, and a stylized version of the park’s fountains and bridges.

“Everything that you see, all of the elements were drawn by the kids,” Wright said. “I can tell you the kid who drew that flower, that boat, that lighthouse.”

Once the individual drawings were photoshopped together into the mural, it became a matter of finding volunteers to execute the vision, and so a signup form was put on the school’s website. Aboff’s Paints in Huntington donated all the paint, brushes, rollers and supplies needed, according to the assistant principal.

“There was an outpouring of people who wanted to help,” Michaelian said. “Community members have been driving by, beeping and saying they love it. It’s become this beautiful thing.”

That’s what we try to teach the kids all the time: You come to school to learn, but you are also part of a bigger thing, part of your community, of your state and your country.”

— Anthony Ciccarelli

Wright and her husband, Paul, began placing outlines of the children’s drawings up on the overpass tunnels the first weekend of August, with rotating shifts of volunteers picking up the paintbrushes each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Dozens of children and their parents have come down to paint and bring life to their drawings.

“They are taking complete ownership,” she said. “They are so committed.”

During Labor Day weekend, Birchwood Principal Anthony Ciccarelli could be found rolling out a blue sky on the western wall of the overpass to serve as a backdrop to an airplane.

You are so proud of the whole school community for coming together, first for thinking of the idea and thinking of the community and, second, thinking of how to better your community,” Ciccarelli said. “That’s what we try to teach the kids all the time: You come to school to learn, but you are also part of a bigger thing, part of your community, of your state and your country.”

The committee hopes to have the mural finished for a grand unveiling during the annual Unity in the Community parade — Huntington Awareness Day scheduled for Sept. 22. Even so, its student creators hope the mural is a gift that continues to give and grow with the community.

“Maybe, hopefully, people will continue to add new things to it in the future,” Danny said.

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Kings Park train station. Photo by Kyle Barr

Tired of delays, cancellations, safety issues and general stress of commuting on the Long Island Rail Road, several thousand Long Islanders have signed a petition asking for refunds and an investigation of the venerable rail system.

Nearly 3,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the LIRR investigate the rail line’s safety and inefficiency problems as well as institute refunds for canceled service. More are signing the petition every day.

For Commack resident and three-year LIRR commuter Eric Trinagel, 42, who started the petition, it displays just how fed up commuters have become.

People are worried that they’re going to lose jobs because the train makes them late.”

— Eric Trinagel

“If they’re working on construction, if they are going to short schedules, at least increase the cars,” he said. “Instead they’re reducing schedules and reducing car lengths from 12 cars to eight. Everybody standing and standing uncomfortably.”

Trinagel, a technical manager for Viacom, said he didn’t expect so many people to join the petition, originally only expecting he and his wife would support it, if that. Within a few hours, he said he watched as more than 1,000 people signed their names to his Change.org petition.

The current total of 2,781 petitioners as of Wednesday is only a drop in the bucket of the LIRR’s 355,000 average weekday ridership, according to the LIRR’s 2016 data. Still, its creator believes these issues of constant delays for riders is coming to a head. He said commuters are sick and tired of delays, especially if it means being late for work.

“People are worried that they’re going to lose jobs because the train makes them late,” Trinagel said. “People are looking for jobs outside of the city because of the LIRR.”

The LIRR is taking my hard-earned money and giving me next to nothing in return.”

Lorraine Mastronardi

Data on LIRR’s website shows July 2018 had an 88.9 percent on-time performance compared to 93.1 percent in July 2017.

Trinagel also said that the LIRR should look to reimburse at least a small part of commuter’s tickets if there are service delays, especially because of recent fare hikes. In March 2017, fares rose 4 percent across the board for train users, though the increase did not affect New York City subways. Another 4 percent fare hike has been proposed for 2019.

Many who signed the petition decried the amount they pay for their commutes compared to the level of service. People complained of overcrowded cars, rising fares and an overall feeling of being uncared for, especially when the railroad could be the determining factor if they are late for their jobs.

“Chronic lateness to work can jeopardize one’s career stability,” Mount Sinai resident Cynthia French wrote as she signed the petition. “Their traffic and weather reporters rattle off delays with a smile, but commuter stress is real.”

As the country heads into election season, multiple incumbents and candidates have also criticized LIRR’s recent performance. U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and his Republican opponent, Dan DeBono, have both criticized LIRR’s inefficiencies and called for an overhaul of the rail system.

We can’t be sitting on a train for an hour saying it’s just a signal issue, meanwhile on Facebook there’s a picture of two trains parked face to face a few feet away from each other.”

— Eric Trinagel

“The LIRR is taking my hard-earned money and giving me next to nothing in return,” Port Jeff resident Lorraine Mastronardi wrote. “I’ve been riding the LIRR as a commuter since 1988 and it has never been this horrendous.”

This comes as Phil Eng, the newly appointed president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR, is overseeing several major changes to the rail system, including the Double Track Project, which would add a second track to the Ronkonkoma branch between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma train stations. The LIRR is also dealing with increasing calls for the electrification of the Port Jefferson to Huntington line.

LIRR officials did not response to request for comments by this publication’s press time.

The LIRR has outlined several changes with the intention of increasing customer satisfaction in its March Performance Improvement Plan. It called for an increase in rail inspections, improved rail monitoring systems, increased maintenance, hiring a new chief customer advocate and increased communication between LIRR leadership and customers.

Trinagel said he has spoken to Eng and they talked for approximately 40 minutes. While Trinagel said he respects Eng , he still calls for better communication between the railroad and commuters.

“We can’t be sitting on a train for an hour saying it’s just a signal issue, meanwhile on Facebook there’s a picture of two trains parked face to face a few feet away from each other,” Trinagel said. “We’re smarter than that.”

View the petition at www.change.org/p/andrew-cuomo-demand-better-safety-practices-and-fare-
refunds-from-the-long-island-railroad.

Traffic patterns will be altered as of June 11, with part of Level 2 coming under construction

Huntington's south parking garage at the Long Island Rail Road station. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Starting June 11, Huntington Station commuters may want to leave themselves a little additional time to park their cars at the railroad station.

The Town of Huntington announced that it has hired a new contractor to finish up waterproofing the concrete parking deck on Level 2 of the south parking garage at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station.

“This is one of the many improvements the town has been coordinating with the LIRR at the Huntington train station,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “This project will make the south parking garage safer for Huntington commuters.”

This project will make the south parking garage safer for Huntington commuters.”
– Chad Lupinacci

The work will include replacement of some of the structure’s construction joints, waterproofing of the concrete deck, and then painting on new pavement markings once the waterproofing is complete. It is anticipated the work will take approximately four to six weeks to complete.

The south parking garage will remain open for public use while under construction, according to Lauren Lembo, Huntington public information officer, as the necessary work will affect only a portion of the second floor and all three stairwells. Those areas the town anticipates will be closed or impacted include: the western half of parking Level 2, including the eight handicapped accessible parking stalls; a portion of the entry ramp to Level 2; the ramp from Level 2 up to Level 3; and all three stairwells from the ground floor to Level 5.

“Traffic patterns within the garage will be modified to bypass the construction zones,” Lembo said in a statement.

Those commuters affected should be able to find additional parking across the street from the south parking garage, according to Lembo, and in the town-owned parking lots north of the railroad tracks on the west side of Route 110.

Traffic patterns within the garage will be modified to bypass the construction zones.”
– Lauren Lembo

Waterproofing the parking garage’s second level is the last step in long-awaited renovations in a project that has been left unfinished for more than two years. In 2015, the town hired Tonawanda-based general contractor Patterson-Stevens to oversee several improvements to parking garage including waterproofing of the entire structure. Work on the second level of the train station parking was slated to begin the first week in May 2016.

After less than two weeks, the Patterson-Stevens contract was suspended May 9 by the town, who said the company was allegedly violating New York State’s apprenticeship training program. Upon further investigation, town officials terminated the contract Aug. 8, 2016, according to Lembo, claiming that
issues had not been resolved with the general contractor within 90 days.

Lembo said Huntington town officials decided to take over these remaining renovations in-house, having town employees act in place of a general contractor. The list of projects that was undertaken by town employees included painting parking stall lines and traffic signals on the second floor and roof (Level 5), installing handrails and guards for the stairs between floors, and the conversion of some ground-level parking spots to handicapped accessible slots.

The waterproofing of the second floor is the last step that has yet to be completed at this time. The renovations are expected to be finished in July.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine send joint letter to state representatives

Huntington riders may experience some problems with upcoming station work. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The spark of hope given to electrifying the North Shore branch of the Long Island Rail Road last November convinced local leaders to take up the charge.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has joined with other town supervisors to urge state lawmakers to moved forward with a feasibility study on the electrification of the LIRR service line from Huntington Station east to Port Jefferson Station. Currently, trains on the line east of Huntington run on diesel fuel.

“It will have a strong affect on Huntington, Smithtown and Brookhaven,” Lupinacci (R) said. “For the commuters in all three towns this is something that’s critically needed in the area.”

“It will have a strong affect on Huntington, Smithtown and Brookhaven, for the commuters in all three towns this is something that’s critically needed in the area.”
—Chad Lupinacci

On April 4, Lupinacci along with Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) sent a joint letter to New York State Legislature’s Long Island delegation to express their support for the feasibility study due to potential economic and environmental benefits. They cited that the Port Jefferson and Huntington branch lines have the highest ridership, about 18.7 million annually, of any line in the LIRR service territory, according to the most recent LIRR Annual Ridership Report released in 2015.

“For decades this project has been a concept that could not reach the critical mass necessary to become a reality,” reads the April 4 letter. “However, we believe the time is now given the many roadblocks that prevented this project from moving forward have now been solved — including where to site the train cars.”

The letter details the beneficial impacts electrification of the Port Jeff branch would have for each of the townships.

In Huntington, the five stations — Greenlawn, Northport, Centerport, Fort Salonga and Commack — would benefit from additional transportation options and commuters heading east, according to Lupinacci.

Wehrheim stressed in the Town of Smithtown the infrastructural investment is a key pillar in the revitalization of Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James business areas. The town has invested significant funds in this year’s capital budget to these areas.

However, we believe the time is now given the many roadblocks that
prevented this project from moving forward have now been solved.”
— April 4 letter

In Brookhaven, Romaine said electrification of the rails would foster revitalization of Port Jefferson Station and allow for an easier commute to Stony Brook University, which has approximately 40,000 students and staff members. He also noted it would help ease traffic congestion on local roadways in the communities near SBU.

The project has received support from groups such as the Long Island Association in the past, and a more recent push from state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). LaValle met with Metropolitan Transportation
Authority board member Mitchell Paley last November, wherein the sides agreed to pursue a feasibility study to determine the potential cost and impact of electrifying the line out to Port Jeff.

“I believe it’s something we could get done,” LaValle said, in a November interview with TBR News Media. “I think it’s critically important that we can demonstrate to communities with specificity where electric substations are going. Communities need to know that before we make that decision. I’m supporting electrification that starts in Port Jeff but also goes through Smithtown and Huntington.”

Calls and initiatives to electrify the line east of Huntington go back to at least the 1980s. According to an article by researcher Derek Stadler published by the Long Island History Journal in 2016 entitled “The Modernization of the Long Island Rail Road,” in 1984, electrification of the branch was included in a nearly $600 million MTA spending package that was meant to serve as a five-year plan for LIRR improvements. However, the plans were postponed indefinitely just two years later due to a budget gap.

“This is a good time to put it out there. Now you can have serious conversations for next [budget] year.”
— Chad Lupinacci

The establishment of a one-seat ride from Port Jefferson to Penn Station has long been a goal for elected officials and LIRR riders as well, though that would require electrification as diesel engines cannot travel to the Manhattan station. In the mid-90s, a brief pilot program was tested on the Port Jeff line using dual-mode locomotive cars that could run using both diesel engines and third-rail electrification. According to Stadler’s research, in 2000 it was estimated that electrification east of Huntington could cost as much as $500 million.

“You are looking at several millions per mile of track,” Lupinacci affirmed. “This is a good time to put it out there. Now you can have serious conversations for next [budget] year.”

There is renewed hope that with a newlyannounced LIRR president, Philip Eng of Smithtown, that a feasibility study willEd be funded.

“New leadership brings in a different perspective,” Lupinacci said. “I think this is a good situation for us to be in with new leadership taking over the helm.”

In November, state Sen. Ken LaValle gave his blessing to a feasibility study for the electrification of the Port Jefferson LIRR line east of Huntington. File photo

A Smithtown resident will take the lead in determining the future of the Long Island Rail Road.
Phillip Eng was appointed the next president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR April 12 by MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim.

“Phil has shown exceptional leadership and dedication during his time at the MTA, and I know he will bring his enthusiasm for developing a world-class transportation system to the LIRR,” Lhota said.

“As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

— Steve Bellone

Eng will take over for Patrick Nowakowski, who served as LIRR president for nearly four years. He submitted his resignation less than a month after the LIRR had its worst on-time performance in the last 18 years, according to a March 15 report released by the Office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in March. The report had found that nearly 21,400 trains were delayed, cancelled or terminated in 2017; a 20 percent increase from 2016.

“As millions of commuters can attest, the performance of the Long Island Rail Road has become unacceptable,” DiNapoli said in a March statement. “On-time performance has fallen to the lowest level in nearly two decades, hurting riders. While Amtrak was a big factor behind the deterioration in service last year, the LIRR was responsible for more than twice as many delays.”

Eng first joined the MTA in March 2017 when he was appointed its chief operating officer. His role as chief operating officer was leading major initiatives across all of the MTA’s agencies, particularly with a focus on using innovation and technology to modernize the transportation systems and improve customer reliability, according to the MTA. From October 2017 to January 2018, he held the position of acting president at New York City Transit.

“The LIRR couldn’t have a found a more qualified person for this role,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable.”

— Phil Eng

He is now expected to use his 35 years of experience in the New York State’s transportation sector to get the LIRR’s performance back on track. Prior to joining the MTA, Eng started his career with New York State Department of Transportation in 1983 as a junior engineer. He worked his way up, rising through the ranks to become the state DOT’s executive deputy commissioner. While there, Eng was responsible for delivering on the $2.5 billion annual capital construction program and was involved in the environmental impact study on the LIRR Mainline Expansion Project.

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable, allowing commuters to get where they need to go safely and quickly,” Eng said in a statement. “I am honored to be chosen to lead the LIRR and its team of talented women and men as we work together to make the daily experience on the trains a better one.”

In his new position, Eng will be expected to manage several major infrastructural changes underway on the LIRR including the Double Track Project, which adds a second track to the Ronkonkoma branch between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma stations and is scheduled for completion later this year. He will also be expected to implement the Performance Improvement Plan, unveiled March 19, which aims to improve the LIRR’s service reliability, seasonal preparedness and communications with its customers. Public calls from elected officials to expand electrification on the Port Jefferson line east of the Huntington station, a long sought technological improvement, are also intensifying.

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A historic look at Smithtown’s first LIRR trestle. Photo from the Smithtown Historical Society

By Marianne Howard

It wasn’t until the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road and a few transportation innovations that Smithtown began to flourish as a place to live.

Prior to the LIRR arriving in 1872, Smithtown was solely connected to New York City through the Long Island Sound transport and dirt roadways. With the railroad, travelers from New York City were free to access areas like St. James and Kings Park as day trips, which previously would have never been considered.

As more and more people began coming into town, economic and business development around town boomed. Local farmers could now load wagons full of produce onto flatbed railroad cars headed for New York City. Travelers who initially came east for fresh air eventually concluded that there were residential possibilities in Smithtown and settled into the area.  However, the horse and buggy was the most accessible way to travel on the area’s dirt roads.

Old Hauppauge Road in 1910. Photo from the Smithtown Historical Society

Country sleighing was a favored pastime by early residents, according to “Images of America: Smithtown” written by Bradley Harris, Kiernan Lannon and Joshua Ruff. The book cites Alma Blydenbyrgh’s 1833 diary entry for Jan. 17 , in which she wrote, “Mr. Floyd been to the river and took Em and myself for a sleigh ride. Good sleighing!”

Getting to and from Smithtown remained difficult for years to come. The main obstacle to Smithtown’s connection to the northern spur of the LIRR was the Nissequogue River. To accomplish fully connecting the LIRR, engineers crafted a trestle to span the river valley, the largest iron structure of its kind on Long Island. When completed, it stood over 50 feet high and spanned a distance of 490 feet.

In the 1890s, bicycles first became a popular fad in the area. Bicyclists were urging the town and the county to construct dedicated bicycle paths to improve riders’ safety. Millionare Richard Handley personally funded a bike path from his estate in Hauppauge out to Smithtown. Eventually, Suffolk County constructed a path along Jericho Turnpike. 

Bicycling quickly became a nuisance to town officials. In 1911, Smithtown’s town board issued a motion banning bicyclists from riding on town sidewalks. Any rider caught violating the order could be fined up to $5.

Thirty years after the railroad came to town, automobiles began appearing. By the 1920s, the automobile was replacing the horse and buggy. Town officials were eventually forced to pave the roadways, and by the 1930s, the town was primed for a boom in both population and land development.

Marianne Howard is the executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society. For more information on the society, its events or programs or on becoming a member, visit www.smithtownhistorical.org or call 631-265-6768.

Huntington riders may experience some problems with upcoming station work. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Long Island Rail Road commuters may face some additional strain in their usual commute in the coming weeks.

The elevator at the South Parking Garage at the Huntington LIRR station is now out of service and is being replaced, with construction that began July 11. According to a press release from the town, this project is “much-needed,” to increase the reliability, safety and comfort for those who regularly use the elevator. The town said it estimates that the elevator will be out of service for about four months, with construction wrapping in November.

“We realize that no matter what the alternative, riders will be inconvenienced,” the press release said. “Please be assured that our contractor will endeavor to complete the project as quickly as possible.”

In an effort to make the change as painless as possible, the town asked for input from residents to help create options for those who, because of physical handicaps, find the elevator necessary.

“I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we’re not on the first page of Newsday, but we do have real problems,” Georgina White, a Huntington resident said at the June town meeting where the input was gathered. “This is really a hardship. I did go online and take the survey, but the proposed suggestions are really poor. The handicapped and the elderly, and the people with strollers are going to be held. I suggest that you try to put the shuttle, that’s handicapped accessible, from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. It needs to happen.

She acknowledged the elevator has had a lot of issues in recent years, including breakdowns and filth, and commended the town for finally getting a new elevator. But She encouraged the town to improve its ways of getting the motive out, as she feared not enough residents realized the changes that were going to soon occur.

Based on those responses and the town’s recommendations, the following actions will be taken:

1. The town has added handicapped parking spaces on both sides of the tracks. On the north side, the additional spaces are on ground level in the parking garage. On the south side, the additional spaces are on level 2 of the parking garage. Both locations will provide easy access to the handicapped ramps. If at all possible, the town suggests users should try to arrange their trip so eastbound and westbound trips depart and arrive on the same track. Information on which platforms trains usually depart from or arrive on is contained in the full Port Jefferson line LIRR schedule.

2. Consider alternate stations. In particular, parking is available at the Northport station, which has only one track.

3. A town Public Safety vehicle will be available at the station during peak hours — 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. — to transport persons with disabilities from one side of the tracks to the other. To arrange a ride during those or other times, call Public Safety at 631-351-3234. Riders can call from the train to make Public Safety aware of their need in advance.

4. The town has reached out to the LIRR and asked that announcements about track changes be made as early as possible, so commuters will know if there is an issue before they board the train.

5. If a rider has questions or a problem, they should call the Department of Transportation and Traffic Safety at 631-351-3053.

“I appreciate all you’re trying to do,” White said. “Could we work together to communicate some better things for people in our town?”
After she spoke at the meeting, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) thanked her for her suggestions and encouraged her to meet with the town’s director of transportation to continue a dialogue.
The news adds to rider woes, as those dealing with Huntington’s maintenance may also be delayed by Long Island Rail Road work at Pennsylvania Station.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro stand on the newly paved Quaker Path in Stony Brook. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) recently announced the completion of the resurfacing of Quaker Path in Stony Brook, from Route 25A to the Old Field Village Line, just south of West Meadow Road.

“Quaker Path is a main arterial roadway, leading to both Stony Brook University and the Long Island Rail Road Stony Brook train station,” said Losquadro. “I am glad that we were able to provide relief for residents, motorists and pedestrians in this area, while removing this roadway from our high priority list.”

The total cost for this extensive paving project, along a nearly two-mile stretch of roadway, was $413,000. Crews replaced 240 square feet of aprons, nearly 300 linear feet of curbing, 1,350 square feet of sidewalk, and installed three, new ADA-compliant handicap ramps.

“Numerous residents have contacted my office requesting that Quaker Path be paved,” said Cartright. “I am happy that Superintendent Losquadro and I can announce the completion of this paving project, which alleviates major quality of life concerns in this neighborhood. I look forward to continuing to work with the community and the Highway Department to improve roadways in our town.”

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Everyone knows about the doctor who was forcibly removed from his place on a United Airlines plane when no one volunteered to give up seats to accommodate a flight crew traveling to another airport. Fortunately for the doctor, another passenger videoed the event, and the video went viral. The public outrage that followed is prompting congressional hearings, new rules within the airline industry and new laws regarding removal by police of an unwilling passenger.

I think it is fair to say that the reaction to the incident is one of total disbelief that such an act could happen here in the United States. The callousness and utter disregard for the safety of the man, incidentally a paying customer, are astonishing.

Yet here is another story, closer to home and less violent, of insensitivity to customers. I was riding the Long Island Rail Road home from Penn Station on a weekday afternoon, expecting the usual change at Huntington for Port Jefferson, when an announcement over the public address system advised us that the connecting train was arriving across the tracks on the south side of the station. We were told to use the stairs to cross over if we wanted to continue east.

It seemed a bit of an inconvenience until we walked down the platform to the stairway and found the entrance blocked. Turning around to find the next closest stairway over the tracks, I saw that some of the passengers behind me were using walkers or canes. As they saw the locked gate to the stairs, they became frantic. The next crossover was a half block down the platform. Did you ever witness people with walkers and canes trying to run? The sight is pathetic. And the rest of us didn’t look too graceful, huffing and puffing our way to try and catch the waiting train.

The stairs were steep to the top of the overpass, and the passages on the south side leading back down to the platform and to the parking lot were confusing. We ran by an elevator, and some of us pressed the button, but it took what seemed like forever to arrive. Once inside, we were confronted with different buttons that were labeled, each with an ambiguous letter. We pushed the wrong button and wound up on the ground floor. Breathless at this point, we rushed back up the stairs to the platform just in time to see the train pulling away. Those with the walkers and canes, as well as those of us too slow to navigate in time, perhaps a dozen in total, were left to wait the hour and a half until the next train. The moans were loud.

There is, of course, pressure on the engineers and conductors to keep to a schedule. A regular report grades the on-time performance of the LIRR, and there is much disgruntlement when the trains are habitually late. So there was reason for the train to pull away before all the passengers had crossed the tracks. But where was the caring? Some of the passengers were lame. Some were old. Some were just out of shape for a sudden dash up, around and down the granite stairways. It would have taken perhaps another two minutes for the rest of the group to reach the train.

Where was the respect for the paying customer?

Perhaps this sort of disregard is inevitable in a monopolistic situation. There is no other train line to use. There aren’t that many different airlines left in our country after the assorted mergers. Or is it something else, something having to do with our society as a whole? Yes, in many ways we have become more tolerant over the past century, more accepting of differences. We have also become more relaxed, less formal in our dealings with each other — and not in a negative way. But there are some aspects of previous generations that are sadly scarce. I could name a few: politeness, honor, civility, patience, respect. We rush around a lot, but I’m not sure we always get where we want to be. And if we don’t rush, we get left behind.

A map of the Rails to Trails project provided by the county’s Department of Public Works. Photo from Legislator Sarah Anker’s office

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) will host two public information meetings to discuss the proposed design for the Port Jefferson-Wading River Rails to Trails project. The two dates for the public meetings are:

•March 22 at 6 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School, 250 Route 25A in Shoreham.

•April 5 at 6 p.m. at Miller Place High School, 15 Memorial Drive in Miller Place

The proposed trail, a project that was spearheaded by Anker, is a 10-mile-long shared-use recreational path.

The path will be built along the abandoned Long Island Rail Road right-of-way, which currently is owned by the Long Island Power Authority. The trail will run through the hamlets of Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, Shoreham, East Shoreham and Wading River.

These meetings will give residents an opportunity to hear from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works regarding the plan for design and construction of the trail. For more information, contact Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.

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