The ranks of the Right Track For Long Island Coalition are swelling.
The coalition – a partnership of major organizations, institutions, businesses and individuals united to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Long Island Rail Road enhancements – this week announced the addition of 30 new member organizations. The coalition now claims to represent “over 500,000 Long Islanders” on board with Cuomo’s plans to build a 9.8-mile “third track” between Floral Park and Hicksville, a historically bottlenecked stretch where five major branches join the LIRR mainline.
Throwing their support behind the coalition are SUNY College at Old Westbury, the Nassau County Council of Civic Associations, United Way of Long Island, Laborers Local 1298 “and a slew of business, labor, nonprofit and municipal organizations,” Right Track said in a statement.
The coalition now boasts “geographically diverse support,” with 37 percent of members in Nassau County, 31 percent in Suffolk County and 28 percent “with a bi-county presence.” Dave Kapell, the Rauch Foundation consultant and former Greenport mayor who co-chairs Right Track with Long Island Association President Kevin Law, called it “an unprecedented amount of support” for a longtime political hot potato that’s been derailed many times by a lack of government or public support.
“Together, all the stakeholders are helping to create a third-track plan that is a true departure from any plan we have seen before,” Kapell said.
George Truicko, the assistant business manager of Laborers Local 1298, part of the national Road & Heavy Construction Laborers Union, agreed his local signed on because the current third-track proposal “is different than all the others in the past.”
“They aren’t taking any homes this time and they want to get rid of those terrible grade crossings,” said Truicko, who is also listed as a coalition co-chair. “Our members live here, they pay taxes here, they are Little League coaches and volunteer firefighters, and they care just as much as everyone else about how this project will affect our communities.”
The effects, Truicko added, include “good, needed jobs for our members immediately,” and eventually “more opportunities for all working people of Long Island.”
The announcement of the new coalition members follows the release of a state-issued scoping document outlining the project and coincides with a series of public meetings designed to address concerns and disseminate information regarding the third-track plan. Those meetings are scheduled for this week in New Hyde Park, Hempstead, Westbury and Hicksville and represent “unprecedented community engagement” on the expansion effort, according to the governor’s office.
Including the 30 new members, the Right Track For Long Island Coalition now includes 138 members, including businesses, labor unions, local governments, academic and research institutions, nonprofit groups and individual professionals. A complete list of members is available here.
While there are legitimate concerns about the construction process – Law acknowledged “short-term inconvenience for the corridor communities” – coalition members see more pros than cons, including all-time highs projected for Long Island job creation, personal income, sales tax revenue, gross regional product and other critical socioeconomic markers.
And that’s in addition to the safety improvements in the plan, including the replacement of several dangerous grade crossings through the construction zone.
“The plan not only eliminates seven grade crossings, which will reduce traffic and noise and increase safety for local residents,” Law said in a statement. “It will have an undeniable impact on our regional economy that will be felt from our biggest businesses down to the personal bank accounts of individual Long Islanders.”