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Metropolitan Transportation Authority

the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will create a task force to combat the ongoing issue of homelessness in New York City subway system with similar plans underway for the Long Island Rail Road. File photo

As a part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s transformation plan announced July 24, the agency will create a task force to combat the ongoing issue of homelessness in New York City subway system with similar plans underway for the Long Island Rail Road. 

The announcement comes on the heels of a recent audit done by the NYS State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D), which revealed that Bowery Residents’ Committee, the nonprofit provider of homeless housing and services for the MTA, had only done limited outreach to the homeless. On multiple occasions, workers appeared to intentionally close their office and isolate themselves, closing off services to clients seeking assistance, the audit found.

The newly announced task force will look at new metrics for measuring homelessness, updating subway rules and regulations to provide more clarity on what is a violation of the rules, enhanced enforcement of rules, improved coordination among agencies, the potential benefit of establishing a dedicated homeless outreach office within the MTA and additional access to resources for those in need. 

According to the MTA, the homeless population in the subway system has risen 23 percent in 2019 to date.

“Homelessness is a growing problem on the subway, with a growing impact,” said Veronique Hakim, MTA managing director. “Through this task force we’re going to bring together a broad and empowered group that will help us to develop an expedited plan to keep our customers and workers safe and our trains moving — while providing much-needed resources and assistance to this vulnerable population.” 

The task force will have 30 days to design a plan, focusing on housing alternatives and increased resources that MTA officials believe will lead to a significant reduction in homelessness and panhandling by the end of 2019. 

Similarly, the Long Island Rail Road has faced criticism from the state comptroller on the issue of homelessness at its stations. In an audit sent to the LIRR earlier this year, DiNapoli found that the company that the agency contracts, Services for the UnderServed, were not doing an adequate job. 

In the report, officials said that SUS failed to assist homeless people to the extent possible under its contract responsibilities and clients were not receiving the services they needed. 

During one visit, the comptroller’s office observed SUS workers drive up to a train station parking lot and sit in the vehicle for approximately three minutes before leaving. The workers neither walked the platforms nor visited the station’s waiting room, according to the audit.

In a response to the comptroller’s finding, the LIRR responded saying that are already complying with DiNapoli’s recommendations and are implementing steps to improve oversight and performance of SUS.

 

The approved $175.5 billion 2019-20 New York State budget Monday brought some good and bad news for Long Islanders.

That bit of good news came in the form of up to $4 billion over five years for the Long Island Rail Road, making the possibility of improvements to the mass-transit system more promising than ever. However, we believe Long Islanders will need to keep an eye on these funds and make sure they are used for the improvements that mean the most to them.

From everyday commuters to city day-trippers, many can attest that a ride on the train is no picnic, and the transportation system is in desperate need of improvements. From overpacked train cars during rush hours to numerous delays, many Long Islanders opt to take their vehicles into the city instead of dealing with noisy, dirty trains.

A new congestion pricing program in Manhattan will enable LIRR to receive 10 percent of the revenue generated, which will allow funds to be used for capital improvement projects for trains and stations. The program, which will go into effect by 2021, will implement tolls for vehicles passing through Manhattan at 60th Street, with exclusions including FDR Drive, West Side Highway and Battery Park underpass.

While legislators have plenty of ideas for the LIRR, including more ADA compliant stations, electrified rails and more train cars — so when there is a problem with a car a replacement is available — this is the time for residents to speak up and let their concerns be heard. Not only do we urge our readers to notify their legislators with what they would like to see improved on the LIRR, we also appeal to the Metropolitan Transit Authority to hold public forums to allow passengers to air their grievances. With the amount of money being pumped into this, it cannot be squandered.

On the municipalities side of the budget, however, it’s not all good news. Long Island will see less in local aid and road repair funding. Multiple Brookhaven town officials have sent us opinions and letters about this loss. The town is losing $1.8 million in local aid and almost another $700,000 in road repair funding, a 15 percent decrease in its state highway aid.

The permanent 2 percent property tax cap, we hope will allow more Long Islanders to remain here, and not only survive but also thrive. However, it doesn’t compensate for the recent federal capping of SALT deductions, which has meant that many people were unable to claim their entire property tax on their federal taxes. Cost-of-living issues on Long Island are no joke, and while there is certainly a fair amount of political hand-wringing over budgets, more needs to be done on the state’s side to bring down the cost of living. The additional $1 billion in school aid helps, any loss in local funding does not.

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The MTA is currently updating the Stony Brook train station, which will lead to modern amenities and more security. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is giving the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road train station a makeover.

The MTA began renovations on the station’s train house July 23 and will continue working on the station into the fall. In addition to being renovated, the station house will receive modern enhancements and upgrades, according to Aaron Donovan, MTA deputy communications director.

The station house was built around 1888,
according to the book “Images of America: Stony Brook,” and rebuilt in 1917, according to the MTA. The one-story structure will be completely renovated inside and out, and there will be the addition of a Wi-Fi network and charging ports, according to Donovan. Commuters will soon see improved signage and digital information displays, including electronic information columns, and bicyclists will have new bike racks.

The station platforms will be updated with new lighting and closed-circuit television security cameras, according to Donovan. Plans also include sidewalk improvements and a new sculpture in the plaza area.

The MTA has upgraded the station throughout the decades, Donovan said, including the station’s high-level platforms being installed in 1985 and targeted renovation work done to platform railings, lighting and platform shelters in 2011.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement she was pleased that work began this summer.

“The Stony Brook train station is one of the most recognizable community landmarks in the Three Village area,” Cartright said. “There have been requests for upgrades over the years. I am pleased that the MTA saw the importance of meeting with community members including civic leaders, town Historic District Advisory Committee members and government officials to collaborate and develop a renovation plan. It is important that renovations to the station are in keeping with the historical character of the area while meeting the needs of modern travelers.”

Robert Reuter, a member of Brookhaven’s Historic District Advisory Committee, said he provided input but not officially on behalf of HDAC. 

“We encouraged them to preserve the existing and familiar green and beige color scheme, locate planned new ticketing machines away from the bay window, improve handicap accessibility both at the station and crossing the tracks, and minimize signage,” Reuter said.

In 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) introduced a proposal to invest $120 million to provide state-of-the-art enhancements to 16 LIRR stations, including Stony Brook — and also at Port Jefferson. The MTA covered $35 million of the investment to the railroad stations, according to its website. It is estimated by the LIRR that 2,330 customers use the Stony Brook train station daily.