New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin today stood at the crumbling, debris strewn and pigeon infested Valley Stream Railroad Station to urge new capital investments and maintenance efforts to improve conditions for local commuters and beautify the community. In addition, Clavin called upon Nassau County to renegotiate the County’s annual payment to the MTA for station cleaning services.
"Valley Stream commuters should expect and deserve a clean, well-maintained train station," said Senator Skelos. "Through the ongoing Capital Program process, I’m working to secure the funding necessary to renovate Valley Stream’s station and provide a facility that is a source of pride for the community."
Each year, Nassau County pays the MTA for station maintenance and cleaning services. This year the county is scheduled to pay $22.3 million on behalf of its residents. On June 1st, the MTA will bill the County for the period April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005, with payment due by September 1st. Nassau County pays significantly more than Westchester and Suffolk counties, but less than New York City’s $71.3 million annual bill.
"Nassau County residents will pay more than $22 million in 2004 and $23 million in 2005 to maintain and clean local train stations," said Clavin. "It’s an insult to ask residents to pay for work that clearly isn’t being performed. I believe the MTA should remediate the horrendous conditions at many stations before the county remits any funds for station maintenance."
In March, the MTA will increase fares, close some weekend ticket windows and eliminate various Long Island Rail Road services. In addition, the MTA is reducing train and station cleaning on the LIRR. Through these measures, the MTA projects a 3% reduction in ridership for the forthcoming year.
Under state law, the MTA bills New York City and counties for station cleaning services determined through an agreed upon formula that is annually adjusted for inflation. Beginning April 1st, the County may petition the MTA for a modification of this payment based upon "changes made to commuter services including but not limited to changes in the number of passenger stations within such county or the level of commuter rail service provided to any such passenger stations." If the County and the MTA cannot reach agreement on a lower amount, the New York State Comptroller is required to mediate. Should this mediation fail, the matter may then be referred for action by the State Legislature.
With MTA policies resulting in fewer riders and diminished service, Clavin has written a letter to Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, calling upon them to lower the County’s annual payment to the MTA.
"I have asked the county comptroller to pursue a reduction in the amount charged for station maintenance based upon the MTA’s recently announced plans to cut service. Clearly closing ticket offices during weekends and reducing the number of trains should create certain economies for the MTA," said the Receiver. "Nassau taxpayers should not pay ‘more for less’."
Further, Clavin urged the County to seek further reductions based upon the poor level of cleaning service provided at the Valley Stream train station and others in Nassau County. Supporting Clavin’s call for a lower annual service payment from the County to the MTA, Senator Skelos indicated his intention to introduce legislation reducing Nassau’s annual contribution if these negotiations fail.
As the New York State Senate’s representative on the four-person MTA Capital Program Review Board, Senator Skelos is working to include funding for a complete renovation of the Valley Stream train station in the MTA’s 2005-2009 Capital Program. In December, Senator Skelos vetoed the $27.6 billion Capital Program submitted by the MTA on October 1st. As vetoed, the MTA’s proposed Capital Program did not include any funds to renovate the Valley Stream train station.