Fear for homes in LIRR's path: Long Island NY Newsday, 1/25/07

New Hyde Park officials say up to 30 properties in the village could be condemned for the Third Track Project

By William Murphy

Up to 30 homes and businesses in New Hyde Park face condemnation to make way for the Long Island Rail Road's Third Track Project in western Nassau, according to village officials.

Those officials plan a public meeting Saturday at the village community center to inform residents and business owners of specifics of the LIRR plan, and their effort to have it changed.

"I think they [the LIRR] presented the least expensive plan and not the best plan," Village Mayor Dan Petruccio said in an interview Thursday.

In another Third Track development, the Town of North Hempstead said the LIRR had canceled a scheduled meeting Thursday to discuss the impact of the project on the community near the Carle Place station.

Over the past two months, the railroad has been holding village-by-village briefings - or meetings with town officials when the locality in question does not control its own zoning - for some of the communities affected by what is formally known as the Main Line Corridor Improvements Project.

The project would add additional track, eliminate grade crossings and renovate stations along an 11.5-mile stretch from Hicksville to Queens Village.

New Hyde Park is the only community so far to be told that private property would be needed for the project, according to Petruccio and officials of the other communities.

Petruccio said the LIRR was not specific about which properties would be condemned under eminent domain. But he said the affected area would be at or near the three intersections in the village where railroad crossings are at grade level: New Hyde Park Road, South 12th Street and Covert Avenue.

When government takes property by eminent domain, the owner is compensated.

Village officials in Bellerose, Floral Park and Garden City said earlier this month that the LIRR has assured them no property would be seized in their villages.

Mineola Mayor Jack Martins said he had gotten no such assurances during his briefing, so he was assuming that eminent domain still was a possibility in his village, which has two at-grade crossings.

The LIRR, which is preparing a draft environmental impact statement on the project, declined to comment again Thursday. The agency has repeatedly refused to say publicly what it tells the local officials in private meetings.

On its Web site, the railroad said the project would speed the flow of commuters, particularly those who make a reverse commute to Long Island. It would also improve safety by eliminating the at-grade crossings, which have been the scene of several fatal accidents over the years, the Web site says.

However, residents and communities along the route contend it would create congestion and noise, as well as unsafe conditions where trains would run closer to residences.

Petruccio said the LIRR presentation to village officials consisted of "some preliminary drawings ... some preliminary plans."

He said there was room for a third track on the south side of the existing tracks, but that elimination of the at-grade crossings would cause problems.

"I believe this plan was the least expensive for them," Petruccio said. "We will be filing a Freedom of Information request to look at other plans they may have considered."

Long Island NY Newsday: http://www.newsday.com