Area residents were given an opportunity Thursday night to air grievances one-on-one with representatives of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) regarding issues with their local train stations in a forum hosted by Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick, at the Wantagh Public Library .
With issues such as broken escalators, safety, cleanliness, parking, and more, citizens representing Denenberg’s legislative district, including those from Bellmore, Merrick, Wantagh, Seaford, and Freeport, took this opportunity to make their voices heard.
“The idea isn’t just to raise the complaints at this meeting,” Denenberg said. “The idea is to follow-up and try and get some satisfaction so that we make things at our stations improve.”
Denenberg welcomed two representatives of the LIRR to the meeting including Robert Brennan, director of government and community affairs, and Patrick Gerakaris, branch line manager of the South Nassau District, both of whom fielded questions from members of the audience.
Denenberg, as well as several residents in attendance at the meeting, complained about the overall condition of the Wantagh LIRR Station , noting that the platform is in poor shape, that it currently possesses no elevator, and that the escalator as been out of order for quite some time.
“People who have a handicap or a disability really have to go to Seaford or Bellmore at this point,” he said. “Not having an elevator or an escalator is a critical issue.”
Brennan addressed this issue, noting that the Wantagh station is due for a complete overhaul in the near future.
“The entire Wantagh station needs to be renovated,” he said. “We do have plans to do that within the next few years...the reason why the Seaford station was done first was because the platform there was in much more dire straits than Wantagh’s. But Wantagh is on the list.”
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Another pressing problem for many commuters brought up Thursday involved abbreviated ticket expiration dates, and while Denenberg said that the issue has improved, residents are still not quite satisfied with the result.
“The period was extended due to complaints at these meetings to two months, because the ticket expiration had been shortened to two weeks,” he said. “People still express that they still want the tickets to have a six month expiration date, as they had previously.”
Brennan indicated that he would take the matter under advisement, but gave no concrete answer regarding extending the current two month expiration dates for LIRR tickets.
Several people at the meeting issued complaints regarding the overall cleanliness of the LIRR stations, citing issues such as rampant pigeon droppings and public urination at the Merrick, Bellmore, and Wantagh stations. Gerakaris responded that cleanup efforts would increase now that the spring season was upon them.
“We have trucks with high-pressure power washers...they obviously do not operate in the winter, because they would just create icy conditions for customers,” he said. “But they did start of on Tuesday of this week, so that will handle any dirty conditions that may exist. We’re working our way down the line.”
LIRR security was also expressed as a concern with Denenberg pointed out that many of his constituents have complained about an overall lack of MTA Police presence at the local train stations.
“We even got those complaints in Merrick, which is ironic, since there’s a station house for the MTA police there,” Denenberg said. “There’s also been many requests about getting surveillance cameras around the stations.”
Brennan said that MTA police are often stretched too thin considering the wide area they are responsible for. He added that the LIRR is exploring other ways to beef up security at their stations.
“The MTA police are responsible for 130 miles of track, from Manhattan to Montauk Point, so it’s difficult for them to be everywhere at once,” Brennan said. “However, we are looking into installing security cameras and better lighting to make things safer for commuters.”
Another hot-button topic raised during the forum was parking permits at the Merrick and Bellmore stations. However, Denenberg was quick to point out that the Town of Hempstead issues the permit and this is not something that the LIRR has any control over. Denenberg encouraged residents to contact the Hempstead officials regarding this issue and that he would continue to do what he could on his end.