The Mineola Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to retain the village’s master plan consultant, Phillips Preiss Grygiel, to review the proposed Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Third Track plan, whenever it is made available.
“Once these plans are released, we want [the consultant] to evaluate this and advise us on what works best for our town,” said Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss.After the meeting on May 4, Strauss also confirmed that the Mainline Mayors coalition, comprised of mayors of municipalities with grade crossings along the LIRR mainline, may eventually retain an attorney to represent the group in dealing with the state and the LIRR on the third track proposal.
“We’re researching that,” Strauss said, adding that he did not favor retaining an attorney before the LIRR presents a comprehensive third track plan.
A similar group of mayors hired an attorney when the LIRR third track line was proposed—and ultimately abandoned—10 years ago.
Strauss said the Mineola board decided to get an objective opinion of the LIRR third track plan from the expert who helped draft its long-term master plan.
“We thought it best to retain Paul Grygiel on the LIRR third track plan. It will help the community if we seek this man’s assistance,” Strauss said.
Grygiel, a partner in the firm, Phillips Preiss Grygiel, was principally involved in developing the master plan during the administration of former mayor Jack Martins. Strauss said the cost of retaining the consultant would be “minimal.”
In the most recent meetings with the LIRR, which is the lead agency for the third track development project, Strauss said village officials were shown alternative sets of plans to eliminate the village’s three LIRR grade crossings, including two on Willis Avenue and one on Main Street.
He said the LIRR was proposing to shut down Willis Avenue during the grade crossing work and dig a tunnel under the Main Street crossing. But he said village officials were not given copies of the plans presented at the meeting for further examination of them.
He expressed frustration at the absence of any comprehensive plan thus far for the LIRR third track plan.
“The grade crossing options are interesting. But I need to see those plans in conjunction with a third track plan,” Strauss said after last Wednesday night’s village board meeting.
He said the village board needs to carefully evaluate the LIRR third track proposal whenever it is released.
“We’re trying to go at this methodically. We only have one chance to get this right,” Strauss said. “If this is being forced on us, as it seems that it is, we need to take care.”
Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said it’s important for the board to get an “honest and unbiased” opinion on the plans for the LIRR grade crossings as well as the third track plan. He also expressed frustration that the state had not yet released a third track plan.
He said the recent spate of development in downtown Mineola increases the complexity of judging the impact for the grade crossing plans.
“We’re concerned about a lot of things,” Pereira said. “But we do not yet have a concrete plan for a third track.”
In the last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced several public outreach efforts to inform the residents about the project and get feedback. There will be four public meetings held; Tuesday, May 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Inn at New Hyde Park and 6 to 9 p.m. at Hofstra University, and on Wednesday, May 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the “Yes We Can” Community Center in Westbury and Antun’s in Hicksville from 6 to 9 p.m.
On Friday, May 6, MTA officials also opened a LIRR Expansion Project Information Center, located on the south platform at the Mineola Train Station. At the center, people can review the scoping documents and allow questions to project officials on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A newly launched website, www.amodernli.com, also details the project and allows the public to provide input.
In other developments:
The village board voted to authorize D&B Engineers & Architects— formerly Dvirka & Bartolucci—to design plans for its planned $1.2 million road repair project at a cost of $112,000.
Daniel Whelan, superintendent of the village building department, said the village is working with the Nassau County Police Department to deal with a “spate” of graffiti defacing in the village. Whelan said it’s difficult to catch graffiti offenders in the act, and Strauss exhorted residents to “be a good witness” and report any graffiti activity they see.