Officials push for improvements to Lynbrook, East Rockaway train stations

Mike Smollins for LI Herald

Originally published in Long Island Herald

Local commuters and officials are calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to make improvements at the Lynbrook, East Rockaway and Centre Avenue Long Island Rail Road stations.

The MTA completed a $17.9 million overhaul of the Lynbrook station last October as part of its Capital Program, but improvements still need to be made on the station’s escalators, while lighting at East Rockaway and Centre Avenue also needs upgrading.

At a Feb. 23 MTA hearing, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky lobbied for the changes to be made at the stations.

“Hardworking Long Islanders deserve a safe, affordable and dependable riding experience to keep our region running — and that begins and ends at their local train station,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “I urged the MTA to pursue these crucial capital improvements at our community’s LIRR hubs, which will go a long way in fostering a sane and dignified commute.”

In a statement in response, MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels said that some planned improvements to various stations have been put on hold amid a drop in ridership and funding during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The MTA is working hard to continue the Capital Program, despite the major impact Covid-19 has had on our funding sources,” Daniels said. “We are relying primarily on federal grants for this year, and are advancing as many critical projects as we can.” 

East Rockaway Mayor Bruno Romano said that village officials met with LIRR executives several years ago about upgrading the Centre Avenue and East Rockaway stations. Both remain in bad shape, he said, and need improvements. Romano said it is “embarrassing” for the village when visitors come to East Rockaway and see the condition of the stations. He added that subsequent efforts to hold meetings with LIRR executives and officials have been difficult, and many of the representatives whom village officials met with years ago are no longer there or have moved to other positions.

“In East Rockaway, we like to keep everything pristine and manicured,” he said. “It becomes challenging when you have an eyesore like the train stations in our village . . . We certainly would like to have our commuters be safe with proper lighting, and also have clean shelters during inclement weather. We would certainly appreciate any efforts that could be made to update the two stations which we have in our community.”

Lynbrook Mayor Alan Beach had not responded to a request for comment at press time, but he, Kaminsky and former State Assemblyman Brian Curran had negotiated with LIRR officials in 2016 and met with them several times before the upgrades were finally made at the village’s station.

At an unveiling of the revamped station in October, Beach lauded its completion. “This station was in such terrible, terrible shape, and it has been a long battle for us,” he said. “. . . We had a couple of hiccups along the way, and adjustments that we made, and we came to have things done that we never even expected. It makes us very proud in Lynbrook to have this done.”

The upgrades to the Lynbrook station were the first in many decades. An LIRR stop that was once home to small craters in the platform floors, chipped paint on walls, a dilapidated waiting room and dingy wooden boards that supported concrete overhangs above escalators and staircases underwent a near-total renovation. The project included an upgraded drainage system, replacement of canopies, two new glass waiting rooms, new signage, LED lighting and closed-circuit cameras.

But for commuters like Lynbrook resident Krista Carlo Clancy, who has been riding the LIRR between the village and New York City since 1996, the enhancements to the station were not enough.

“When this project began over a year ago for improvement, I was very excited,” she said. “I was expecting a greater transformation, with more security and modernization. There are barely any noticeable changes, and [it’s] an extremely disappointing finalization.”

Additional work, which officials are still pushing for, would be on the street level, and include the installation of new asphalt and concrete sidewalks, curbs and improvements to the station house. They were to be considered under the MTA’s next Capital Plan, but the agency scaled back on many major projects because of decreased ridership.