Village Hosts Forum For Third Track
Concerned residents and local officials convened at New Hyde Park School’s auditorium last week for a public information session, which was hosted by the village board, about the third track project that is soon to begin throughout the village.
Representatives from 3TC, who are the design-build contractors, and representatives from the MTA Long Island Rail Road were also present to provide input about the third track installation and answer residents’ questions.
With the third track project, the Covert Avenue, South 12th Street and New Hyde Park Road grade crossings will be eliminated. The removal of the Covert Avenue grade crossing is expected to start in February 2019 with 24 hours of heavy excavation that would end in July 2019. In the coming weeks, the demolition of the taxi depot at 124 Covert Ave. and the razing of the Safety Storage building at 115 New Hyde Park Rd. will take place, making those properties staging areas.
Construction on the LIRR third track project started in mid-June when utility relocation work began on Covert, Second and Wayne Avenues. The Village of New Hyde Park said that it would continue to manage and provide oversight to ensure mitigations that were negotiated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the LIRR are implemented as the project moves forward.
The MOU incorporates community commitments including: the establishment of $20 million in a Community Benefits Fund, a technical expert to review design build proposals, a community scorecard on 3TC’s performance, and the conducting of a robust community outreach and communication program among other items.
To correspond with the new village aesthetic the new railroad track will provide, the board of trustees also wants to create a new and vibrant downtown center—creating a walkable destination spot for residents to shop, dine and socialize. The board also wants to stimulate economic development through the use of transit-oriented development that would include high amenity apartment buildings as well.
“I think this will put New Hyde Park on the map,” said Mayor Lawrence Montreuil. “All of this is made possible by the $5 million grant that we received and we’re very anxious to get this started and we think it will be a great transition to what the new railroad project will be.”
According to Leslie Mesnick, who is a consultant to the LIRR from The Calladium Group, the third track project is much more than just eliminating grade crossings. In the Villages of Floral Park, Garden City and Carle Place, bridges will be replaced or modified as well. The modification of the bridges will reduce the amount of bridge strikes from passing trucks and to reduce noise levels from train horns.
“There are regional benefits and there are local benefits,” said Mesnick. “There are a lot of documents and studies showing a correlation between a thriving rail system and a strong local economy and an increase in property values.”
“This project is being built by people who care about this area,” said Director of Community Outreach for 3TC Travis Brennan. “I understand the kind of impact that this kind of project can have on a local area such as New Hyde Park.”
According to Brennan, 3TC has a contractual obligation, in particular to Covert Avenue, to return the avenue back to the village within six months. If they don’t, they face heavy monetary fines associated with their contract with the MTA and LIRR.
“I think it’s important for everyone to understand, especially if you have three grade crossings, that we are contractually obligated to not have two major thoroughfares closed at the same time,” explained Brennan. “As the mayor has made it clear to us, it is extremely important to be able to move freely throughout the community for pedestrians and vehicles.”
Because of the impending road closures, Stantec transportation engineer Julie DiGennaro said they are coordinating with the local emergency services such as the fire and police department—giving them up-to-date knowledge on road closures in case of emergencies.
“We’ll make sure that fire trucks will have enough room to get around and make appropriate turns,” said DiGennaro. “So any emergency is not made worse by the construction. That is our number one goal.”
Detours will be expected as well to keep traffic away from the construction site. Signs will be posted around the village way outside the construction area telling people to avoid the area as much as possible.
“There are limitations to the detour since you can’t detour people too far away from the construction,” explained DiGennaro. “You need to find the balance between an official roadway but still keeping them far enough away from the construction and residential houses.”
One detour path will have cars passing through Tulip and Plainfield Avenues in Floral Park when Covert Avenue is shut down.
During the Q-and-A session of the night, New Hyde Park resident Maria Clark asked the panel about the use of the deadly herbicide Agent Orange that has been found in the soil along the tracks and whether or not it was safe for construction crews to excavate the possibly contaminated soil.
“We are doing soil analysis tests,” responded Brennan. “We are currently in the process of getting results back from Floral Park and New Hyde Park. We are going to share those results and we encourage the village to share that with the residents. We have talked to them and we know they will.”
For more information about the imminent third track project, residents can call the 24/7 Community Hotline at 516-203-4955, email CommunityOutreach@3rdTC.com, or check out the website www.thirdtrackLI.com. There is also a Community Information Center at 114 Old Country Rd. in Mineola, which is by appointment only.