Third Track Prompts Leadership Strategy Session
There may have been a blizzard that hit Floral Park a week ago, but that didn’t stop community leaders from huddling to strategize about fighting the threat of Third Track in Floral Park. The threat was raised to a higher level as the Governor put the third track initiative into his state budget.
From the onset of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that the Third Track proposal was alive and well, local leaders have been meeting at local homes sharing information and planning a local effort aimed at stopping the plan. Business, education, civic and community leaders have been quietly collaborating in a pro-active fashion to address the Governor’s budget priority. The effort to oppose the Third Track has been called unprecedented in the Village in that the fight waged ten years ago is back.
There is a big difference between the battle a decade ago and now, however, local village residents note “the Governor is using slight of hand to get his way through the State budget.”
“The impact to our schools and community at large regarding the Third Track is very significant,” said School Board President Laura Ferone who noted, “the budget gets passed in 60 days and we must act and act quickly. For those who think this is not a real situation, think again. It’s as real as it gets.”
Local businessman Tim Dalton told the Gateway in an exclusive that from the morning the Governor made his shock announcement that the Third Track was in play again, he has been calling business and community members to raise awareness and promote the coalition to fight the plan. “We always knew that the Third Track was never defeated and gone. This announcement came out of nowhere and caught everyone off guard,” Dalton said adding, “we can’t be complacent. We must fight and we can’t wait.”
The day the announcement was made, local community leaders led by Dalton, Trustee Dr. Lynn Pombonyo, Judge Doug Hayden, Trustee Dominic Longobardi, School Board Trustees Laura Ferone, Doug Vigo and Jenell Horan swung into action. Joined by local civic and business people, the group began brainstorming at kitchen tables to address the issue head on.
The effort turned up to a fevered pitch this past week after local leaders spoke to Albany officials about the proposal. “When we learned that the Third Track was in the State budget, that’s when we knew we had a fight on our hands. The Governor is trying to pull a fast one on Floral Park. That;’s why a blizzard didn’t stop us from meeting and talking in a pro-active fashion,” said Dalton adding, “make no mistake, if we do nothing, our downtown ceases to exist overnight, we lose the Floral Park pool and our schools are hit hard. It’s a proposal that could care less about people.”
Trustee Dr. Lynn Pombonyo said, “For more than a decade, our village, school district and community officials have led the fight against the proposed LIRR Third Track project. Floral Park, as well as other local municipalities, has not been convinced that there will be significant benefits to the community, while fully understanding the devastating impact it will have on our neighborhoods, businesses and schools.”
“This process is absolutely appalling,” said School Trustee Doug Vigo noting, “the fact that Governor Cuomo put such a highly controversial project in his budget tells us that he knew that his proposal wouldn’t stand the light of day standing alone. We all know that this proposal will destroy and disrupt neighborhoods for over a decade just in the construction phase alone. The impact of a Third Track in our community will be devastating. Let’s be clear, the Governor’s plan is a lift and shift of tracks as well as constructing another one. This plan is not just the same old plan with lipstick on it, it’s a plan that will impact neighborhoods for over a mile in each direction during all phases, not to mention the actual track itself and all that it brings.”
The Third Track volunteer working committee met this past Sunday to plot their next strategic moves in the fight. To that end, members asked Senator Jack Martins to speak to the group about the status of proposal and get insight as to where efforts should be concentrated. Martins attended the packed kitchen table meeting in Floral Park and took questions as well as offered insight on the issue.
“The Third Track is real. And, it will impact communities from Mineola through Floral Park. I spoke to the Governor personally and expressed my opposition to the project,” Martins said to the group adding, “I’ve been through the MTA construction in many forms as Mayor of Mineola. This plan will change the character of our communities and it will have a long lasting impact. The Governor is wrong on this, and we have a responsibility to fight the plan.”
The discussion regarding the budget process as it related to the project was explored with Senator Martins. Judge Doug Hayden asked several pointed questions about the timeline related to the project and what powers the Governor had at his disposal. Dalton noted that the previous effort to fight the Third Track took several tactics rooted in gathering information from the Floral Park Bellerose School District to local business leaders led by the Floral Park Chamber of Commerce.
During the “kitchen table” gathering it was unveiled that there is no plan for the Third Track other than the Governor announcing his intentions and putting it in his budget. Further, locals were stunned to learn that the funding stream that the Governor is looking to use to fund the project would be through the MTA and would be part of the Capital review plan.
Dalton is asking local community members who are concerned about the Third Track to email: so that you can get involved in the fight. In addition, Dalton and group members are mobilizing a telephone back campaign to tell Governor Cuomo that Floral Park, Bellerose Village, Bellerose Terrace, South Floral Park and Stewart Manor is against the Third Track project.