Court to Garden City: Let Third Track work proceed

Randi F. Marshall

Originally published in Newsday

After months of an ugly back and forth, a Nassau County Supreme Court judge has ordered the Village of Garden City to "process and approve" the necessary permit so the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can begin to reconstruct the Denton Avenue Bridge, work that’s required to complete the Long Island Rail Road’s Third Track project. The order also requires the village to authorize the closing of the road beneath the bridge for as long as the project requires.

"Here, the completion of the Denton Avenue Bridge Project, the last of eight bridge replacements needed for the $2.6 billion Third Track Project, is critical," Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Helen Voutsinas wrote in the decision dated Nov. 30 and posted Thursday. "Finally, as to a balancing of the equities, the Court finds no harm expressed by the Village, and in fact, the Village stands to benefit from the Denton Avenue Bridge Project."

Garden City officials did not return calls for comment and it’s unclear whether the village plans to appeal. But MTA officials said they’re looking forward to receiving the permit and starting the work.

"I’m just hopeful we get the permits and we can work together and bring this to a close and to the finish line, rather than being adversarial," Third Track project executive Anthony Tufano told The Point Thursday. "Get in a room and work with us to deliver this thing, which benefits everyone, including their residents."

The order came as the village and the MTA had made progress over the last several days. With increased involvement from State Sens. Kevin Thomas and Anna Kaplan, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office and others, the village, which hadn’t allowed the MTA to even file a permit application previously, finally opened the door to allow an application to be filed. Other permits — for sewer and elevator work — were approved this week, Thomas said. But until the court decision, the future of the bridge and the Third Track project remained uncertain.

The decision, Thomas told The Point, "shows how important this project is to Long Island, from how many jobs it will create to the overall effect on the quality of life of Long Islanders."

"This was a good decision and I’m looking forward to working on this issue in the future," Thomas added.

The MTA had warned of potential delays to the Third Track schedule due to the village’s refusal to issue the permit. With this order, as long as the village issues the permit quickly and doesn’t appeal, Third Track should stay on track to be done by the end of next year as scheduled. That’s particularly important for Hochul, who has supported Third Track, along with related projects like the East Side Access connection to Grand Central Terminal and the new Elmont Long Island Rail Road station.

With green signals ahead for those projects, now the question is whether Hochul can move forward on the host of other big transit items on her agenda.

If only a single court order could make the Second Avenue Subway or Penn Station’s overhaul a reality.