Villages to get say in picking 3rd track contractor: agreement

Villages to get say in picking 3rd track contractor: agreement
An artist’s rendering shows what the New Hyde Park Long Island Rail Road station could look like if the third track project, first announced in January, is completed. (Photo from third track scoping document)

Villages along the corridor of the Long Island Rail Road’s third track project will play a role in picking a contractor to design and build it, according to one village’s agreement with the LIRR.

Officials from Floral Park, Mineola, New Hyde Park, Garden City and Westbury will have a collective representative at technical committee meetings to evaluate how well proposals from firms bidding for the project address community concerns, according to the LIRR’s memorandum of understanding with the Village of Floral Park.

Another LIRR committee tasked with picking a contractor will include an “outside technical expert” and another person “with knowledge of the corridor and technical expertise,” the agreement says.

The input promised to villages along the LIRR’s Main Line is one of several guarantees in the memo, which Floral Park officials published online last Friday. While New Hyde Park has not made its agreement public and Mineola’s is still being finalized, these provisions explicitly refer to all five affected villages.

Floral Park’s agreement, signed by Mayor Dominick Longobardi on July 11, says the selected contractor must create a plan to address local complaints, give advance notice of disruptions and work with the village to address problems.

New Hyde Park officials have referred to similar provisions in their village’s agreement, but the village did not provide a copy of it this week.

“I think everybody deserves to see what we’re doing,” Longobardi said of his village’s decision to publish its memo. “This issue is big. It’s tremendous.”

Planners of the $2 billion project have been negotiating the agreements over the past several weeks with the eight affected municipalities along the 9.8-mile corridor between Floral Park and Hicksville.

Funding for the project was approved last week after a political roadblock in the state Senate briefly held the money in limbo.

Mineola officials are still working out final language in their agreement before signing it, village Clerk Joseph Scalero said.

“It literally is in the final stage,” Scalero said. “I haven’t seen the final product yet.”

The LIRR is providing $20 million to compensate the municipalities for any costs they incur during construction. Some $4 million will be held as a “general reserve,” while the other $16 million will be allocated to Nassau County and each village and town.

A separate $10 million fund will be available to the villages for five years after the project is finished to pay for any impacts that arise later, Floral Park’s agreement says.

The agreement also guarantees payments to the village if the contractor doesn’t finish construction on time.

Longobardi and New Hyde Park Mayor Lawrence Montreuil have said their memorandums will protect their villages from the harm they fear construction could bring.

Longobardi said it will be important to hold the LIRR to the agreement as the project proceeds.

“The work begins now,” Longobardi said. “We really now have to pay attention to everything that’s going on. … We have to make sure that they’re living up to the agreements that they’ve made.”

Montreuil did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Shams Tarek, a project spokesman, declined to comment for this story. But project officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who first proposed the project in January 2016, have emphasized their efforts to incorporate community feedback into the plans.

The project will also eliminate seven street-level railroad crossings, build noise-reducing walls, add parking spaces and renovate stations. Supporters say those efforts will improve safety and quality of life along the corridor.

Matthew Sexton, a Floral Park civic activist, commended village officials for publishing the memorandum of understanding. The benefits they were able to negotiate over the past few months are “impressive,” he said.

“I don’t think the third track will really ever be a good deal for the village, but considering where we were … in the spring of this year, where we are right now is a much better position,” Sexton said.

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