Smith Not In Our Corner
Supporters of reopening the Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR to give Rockaway residents direct access to Manhattan have always assumed that Senator Malcolm Smith was in our corner.
At least eight years ago we arranged a meeting for Senator Smith to meet with George Haikalis, an eminent transportation engineer and planner, to become familiar with the technical details of the line from Rockaway Boulevard to the main line of the LIRR. Senator Smith said he would issue a statement in favor of this vital improvement for our transportation. No statement was issued at that time.
At Senator Smith’s State of the District Address on Thursday, April 29, I recounted our previous discussion and asked for the Senator’s support. Senator Smith did not reply directly, but later a staff member said that they would locate his statement. On the way out Senator Smith said that “I’m with you.”
Today I called the Senator’s office in Albany. I was told they could not find the Senator’s statement. I was transferred to the Senate Majority Leader’s press office. I was told that they would look for the statement and get back to us.
There is capital budget money available for transportation improvements. On June 22, the MTA will hold a public hearing on the use of federal funds for the remainder of 2010 and 2011. The grand total is $4.041 billion. George Haikalis has estimated that it might cost $200 million to restore service on the Rockaway line.
The MTA is a state agency. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer has been a strong supporter of reopening the Rockaway line. It is unlikely that we will succeed without the strong support of our State Senator. As I write, Senator Smith is in Albany working on the budget. I suggest that residents interested in improving our transportation call the Senator’s office at 518-455-2701 and ask for his formal support of high speed rail to Rockaway.