Lynbrook residents rail against LIRR

Mike Smollins for Long Island Herald

January 30, 2020

Originally published in Long Island Herald on January 30, 2020.

Ryan LaBarbera said he was fed up with the leaky roofs, crater-filled platforms and dilapidated waiting rooms at the Lynbrook Long Island Rail Road station, and that he was initially thrilled to hear about a $17.9 million upgrade of it.

His excitement quickly faded, he said, when he discovered that the improvements were minimal and were taking longer than he expected.

“They’re touting it as great, but they haven’t redone the station in 30 or 40 years, so it’s due,” LaBarbera said, noting that he takes the train daily to and from Penn Station on his way to Wall Street, where he works for a firm. “I think in five years it’ll look like garbage again. It’ll be a waste. It needs more structural improvements than just making it look pretty.”

The repairs, which the LIRR has dubbed the Lynbrook Station Enhancement Project, are being funded by the railroad’s Capital Program. The first of two phases of work began in September, and is expected to be finished this fall, according to the LIRR’s website.

In mid-January, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority alerted Lynbrook customers that the west-end platform and western staircase were open, which marked the end of four months of work on that side of the station. As the project’s first phase shifts to the east side, the platform and staircase there are now closed. The staircase adjacent to the station’s waiting room will remain open during peak hours, however, while the platform waiting room will be closed.

While residents and elected officials have long called for renovation of the station, which was built in 1936 and serves more than 5,000 customers daily, many commuters said they have been disillusioned by the work so far.

Ashley Miller called it a “nightmare” now that patrons can board only four train cars during rush hour, when there used to be 12. “It looks like all they’ve done is paint and put up some kind of crusty roof,” she said, “which doesn’t protect from anything but some sun. That’s a lot of money for ‘meh.’”

Brian Smith said that work is taking longer than he anticipated, and he also bemoaned the lack of available cars. The MTA is “doing not much more than a mediocre paint job,” he said. “Add to that the major inconvenience of going from 12 cars during rush hour to four, while still paying the same monthly prices — yeah, Lynbrook commuters have the right to complain about this project.”

Mark Moran also criticized the project. “The . . . renovation is well behind schedule,” he said. “It shows little hope of being completed in the foreseeable future, and evinces a reckless disregard for passenger safety and convenience by the Long Island Rail Road.”

Requests for comment from the LIRR were not returned at press time.

Village Mayor Alan Beach said he has often gone to the station to observe the work, and noted that much of the labor is tedious and time-consuming. He asked commuters to be patient, and added that he is communicating with LIRR officials.

“They are working there. It’s not like they’re not working,” Beach said. “People have to be a little understanding that the work takes a lot of time.”

Beach said that as a former daily commuter into Penn Station, he understands residents’ frustrations, but he noted that the LIRR would return to making 12 cars accessible once the work is complete.

The project marks the first major upgrade to the train station in more than three decades. Problems there include wooden boards that support concrete overhangs above escalators and staircases, chipped paint on walls and gaps in the light fixtures in platform overhangs, which allow rain to pour through.

The construction comes after the LIRR announced — and subsequently canceled — a planned $10 million overhaul of the station in April 2016. The plans were paused when Phillip Eng took over as LIRR president in April 2018, and ordered all planned projects to be reviewed. After several meetings with Beach, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and other elected officials, Eng announced a $17.9 million upgrade of the Lynbrook station in September 2018, for which Beach said he was grateful.

The project’s second phase will start in the second half of 2020, and will focus on street-level upgrades. The bridge from Broadway to Atlantic Avenue will be painted and the sidewalks will be repaired, as will asphalt and concrete curbs, and the entire station will be renovated.

LaBarbera said he hoped the fixes would be worth the investment, and that Lynbrook residents would keep the station clean once the work is complete.

“I hope the community takes care of it, because it’s a representation of us,” he said. “We have to look at ourselves as a community. If we’re a proud Lynbrook community, we hopefully should keep it nice. But for now, it seems like they’re just masking the problem.”