The Village of Malverne came to a standstill on Feb. 15 when motorists and pedestrians were caught in a traffic jam at one of the village’s busiest intersections as a result of three Long Island Rail Road crossings being closed for maintenance — while weekend service on the West Hempstead branch remained suspended.
In a letter sent to Helena Williams, president of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, Malverne Mayor Patti McDonald wrote that an agency-deployed truck had passed westbound through the village’s Hempstead Avenue crossing on the West Hempstead branch that Saturday to defrost the tracks, and lowered the railroad gates for longer than a half hour at two separate times during the day, blocking traffic at the intersection.
Motorists were backed up from Church Street to Ocean Avenue during the delay — on a Saturday, McDonald noted, a day when trains are not available to the village due to the suspended weekend service on the West Hempstead branch — and resorted to making illegal U-turns. Residents near the Hempstead Avenue intersection were also disturbed by the loud noise of the MTA’s defrosting equipment in an operation that lasted several hours, McDonald added.
“I understand the de-icing process is necessary, but the MTA LIRR failed in so many ways in its execution,” she wrote. “Why was advance notice not provided to the village? Why was the village not provided with assistance from the MTA police to control traffic and ensure pedestrian safety in our downtown area?”
McDonald also wrote that the Malverne Police Department received “frantic phone calls” from residents and motorists about the traffic jam, but when the police tried to contact the MTA, transit officials did not respond.