Third Track Meeting Blasts Governor's Plan
Environmental, Health, Safety and
Economic Points Stressed
A packed Floral Park Recreation center hosted what many local village residents have termed an "emergency" community meeting to discuss Governor Cuomo's Third Track proposal and it's impact to the mainline communities. Third Track Task Force Chair Archie Cheng called the meeting to gather community leaders and concerned citizens in an effort to mobilize community action to fight the plan.
From start to finish, speakers discussed their vantage points on the plan and give direct critiques to the Governor's action. "This meeting was put together because the people in our community need to have information, facts and be given the opportunity to express themselves to the Governor. This project will determine Floral Park and our surrounding village's future," said Cheng.
What became clear throughout the meeting was the fact that Governor Cuomo has a Third Track plan that is not even on paper and can not be briefed to any official. In fact, it was revealed that not only do Village governments not know the Governor’s plans, but neither do State representatives.
One resident quipped, “so he’s building a track that he doesn’t have a plan for? How does he know how much money it will cost?”
Floral Park Village Trustee and former FPBS School Supt. Dr. Lynn Pombonyo laid out a devastating critique of the so-called Third Track plan and it's specific impact to local schools. "Since 2005, going from as far back as Dr. Bill McDonald, the Floral Park Bellerose School District has invited the LIRR and the Governor's staff to tour the LIRR line to see the impact to our schools. It's been 11 years, and that has not taken place."
Pombonyo cited air quality, vibrations to school buildings, environmental impacts, soil contamination, noise pollution and the close proximity to both the Floral Park Bellerose and John Lewis Childs Schools respectively. The former Superintendent and current Trustee gave painstaking detail to the fact that there has been contamination of LIRR property and it’s impact to not only the school district, but local neighborhood.
After Pombonyo's presentation, Cheng brought his experience as a real estate attorney to the table noting that property that abuts the LIRR will become a part of the construction process as a result of the usage of easements. "During construction of any track, there would have to be a condemnation area and working easement in order to construct the track. A working easement can be anywhere from 20 feet to 30 feet because the MTA would have to move equipment over other properties whether it is owned by a municipality or individual. The MTA has the ability to go to court and get this easement. For some period, whether it is 1 or 20 years, they will have the ability to go over property.”
Cheng’s clear experience on the ins and outs of construction was met with clear concern by homeowners after hearing his analysis. Bellerose Village Mayor Henry Schreiber reflected on Cheng’s comments and noted that Superior Road homes in Bellerose Village directly abut the LIRR tracks. He also cited the Bellerose tunnel and concerns about it’s closing as a result of construction and reconfiguration.
Floral Park-Bellerose School Trustees Jenell Horan, Dave Fowler and Denise Dellacorte were at the meeting and expressed their opposition and concerns. Dellacorte blasted the plan noting, "It's a complete disgrace that a plan has been put in the budget by the Governor that does not exist. It's an insult to all the mainline communities and homeowners in our Villages. Our schools are within twenty feet at points of the LIRR. This impacts children, and I am personally outraged the Governor either doesn't get it, or doesn't care."
Trustee Horan specifically outlined the school district’s concerns and brought out that Floral Park-Bellerose School district could very well have a fiscal impact in that students may have to be bused to schools as a result of the construction and any closing access ways to schools.
Mayor Tom Tweedy told audience members that he is scheduled to speak to MTA officials, as well as the Governor's staff, in a meeting scheduled right before the Gateway's press time. Specifics of the Mayor's meeting will be outlined in our next issue.
Bill Corbett gave community leaders a comprehensive presentation on the work that CARE is embarking upon to have Village voices heard by the Governor and local representatives. “Unlike last time, we had the opportunity and time to defeat the proposal through the MTA Capital Plan. This time it is in the Governor’s budget and we have a short amount of time to do it. We need to do all we can to convince him to take it out.”
Perhaps the most revealing part of Corbett’s presentation centered upon his support of Dr. Pombonyo’s analysis that freight will be brought through the Village at all hours as well as soil contamination issues. Corbett cited that residents have informed him that they have specifically observed freight in the form of garbage has been brought on the current line. Further, Corbett stunned audience members when he educated locals that freight with “radioactive soils were transported through the Village” occurred until the Queens Borough President stopped it. Local residents were shocked to hear the revelation.
Mike Jakob, President of the Floral Park Chamber of Commerce, noted the staunch opposition of businesses throughout the Village and New Hyde Park. “Businesses are accustomed to negotiating and we understand the function and points of discussion. The hard part about this project, you almost feel that you are in this diminished capacity of not being able to have that kind of opportunity to negotiate. All we have is a small period to fight.”
Nadia Holub Ortiz,of Hillcrest Civic, noted, "people need to be informed in the community of what is happening and they need to take action. The Governor put this proposal as a line item in the budget and it needs to be cut out."