Port Washington residents shared their grievances and personal experiences about the Long Island Rail Road schedule change Thursday night at a Residents Forward community forum intending to gather community concerns to include in a letter addressed to the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
More than 50 residents were in attendance at the forum held in the Jeanne Rimsky Theater at Landmark on Main Street, most of which spoke about their dismay with the schedule changes and shared personal anecdotes about how it has negatively affected their livelihood.
The LIRR schedule was changed on Feb. 27 to offer full services to the new terminal at Grand Central. The terminal’s opening, which is the first station to provide LIRR riders access to Manhattan’s East side directly, resulted in schedule changes that would split the trains running to and from Grand Central and Penn Station.
Trains running to and from Penn Station were reduced with the new schedule in order to defer trains to Grand Central instead.
The schedule also reduced the number of express trains running along the Port Washington branch, originally proposing that all would be eliminated.
In September, local politicians and residents came together to demand the reinstitution of express trains and successfully implemented six, three in the morning and three in the evening.
The schedule implemented on Feb. 27 will be in place through May 21.
The forum was led by five panelists, including North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Town Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte, state Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti, and residents and commuter activists Ian Rasmussen and Ariana Parasco.
Parasco told attendees that collective action is needed in their community for change to be achieved. She advised residents to document their negative experiences on the train and post them on social media platforms like Twitter where MTA officials can see their complaints.
“It takes a village, truly, it can’t just be anyone up here having silo conversations with the railroad,” Parasco said. “The community needs to be outraged and we need to publicly make noise about this.”
The panelists shared their personal thoughts and experiences with the changed LIRR services.
In a prior interview with Blank Slate, Rasmussen said that he commutes to Penn Station and the schedule change has made his commute worse. He proposed that the LIRR reinstate the previous schedule, not changing any of the trains to Penn Station, and instead add trains to Grand Central through transfers at Woodside and Jamaica.
Residents were able to submit questions prior to the forum, which the panelists answered.
During the question period, multiple attendees spoke out from the crowd to ask questions or share their personal grievances with the new LIRR services. Many attendees took the chance to speak directly to the panelists at this time, some interjecting and some passionately sharing their negative experiences.
All residents, excluding one, spoke at the forum about the negative effects the new schedule has had on their commute and overall lifestyle.
Issues residents have faced include crowded trains and train platforms, longer wait times in between trains, longer wait times when transferring between trains and train schedules limiting options for riders when going to and from work.
For riders leaving from the Port Washington station during peak times on the weekdays, three trains arrive in Penn Station before 8 a.m., and another three before 10 a.m. The train arrival times at Penn during this time are 6:16, 6:59, 7:49, 8:30, 9:06 and 9:51.
Residents expressed their concern with the gaps between these arrival times, leading to some residents being late to work because they may miss the only train arriving at the station within the hour before they start work.
While questions were posed and experiences shared, the panelists compiled a list of issues the residents have faced with these schedule changes and the new Grand Central madison terminal, as well as proposals of changes that residents need.
Issues included prolonged wait times in between trains, a lack of seating at Grand Central and the timing of transfers. Proposals for change included more departure times, more trains running to Penn Station before the 8 a.m. work day and to shift off-peak evening trains from Grand Central to Penn Station.
The list will be included in a letter sent to the MTA within the next couple of weeks. The MTA was not notified of the event.
Parasco said that residents need to have a narrow sense of focus when it comes to what they are asking for from the LIRR.
The forum lasted for about two hours, with panelists having to end the session and cut off public comments as they had to leave the theater by 9 p.m. While the panelists ended the forum, many stayed afterward to talk with the concerned residents.
Sillitti is conducting a survey for residents to share their LIRR experiences in the wake of the schedule change to then be shared with the MTA. State Sen. Jack Martins is also hosting a petition for the MTA to improve its services.
“They will not admit that they made a mistake, but all of us here in this room know that they made a mistake and we will be pointing at their mistakes,” Dalimonte said.