Thursday, May 16, 2013

Long Island town irked by rail expansion plan

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Additional Long Island Rail Road service on the Port Washington branch, including access to Grand Central Terminal in 2019, would include the branch's namesake terminus in North Hempstead, N.Y., but the municipality is fretting over the loss of train station parking space instead.

LIRR seeks to expand storage capacity by 18 electric multiple-unit (EMU) traincars at the terminus, but North Hempstead town officials object to the loss of from 40 to 140 parking spaces such expansion would generate.

LIRR has offered two options, with a preferenced to one plan purhcasing a parking lot parcel owned by North Hempstead. That plan would remove 40 parking spaces from the lot, though LIRR officials said restriping the lot could mitigate that loss.

A second plan would utilize parking space owned by the LIRR itself, resulting in the loss of 140 parking spaces, but not requiring any action (pro or con) by North Hempstead.

Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio has expressed concern, saying, "The idea of storing these massive trains, adding two storage tracks to Port Washington, will completely ruin the character of the town." She added, "This is creating a train depot in Port Washington."

Regional rail advocates noted De Giorgio expressed no such aesthetic concerns for any automotive clutter currently in place at the station.

A local group, Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, has issued a statement asking that the town and the railroad make all proposals publicly available to be evaluated by the community. The LIRR says it plans a community outreach program to seek consensus.