State Assemblyman Brian Curran hosted a forum at the Rockville Centre Library on Jan. 30, addressing local concerns about the Long Island Rail Road — primarily the lack of weekend service on the West Hempstead branch and the poor safety and parking conditions at the Baldwin train station. The panel of officials included Robert Brennan, the LIRR’s director of government and community affairs, and Patrick Gerakaris, branch line manager of the Babylon, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach and West Hempstead branches.
Given the recent snow emergencies across the South Shore, during which the LIRR normally implements a weekend train schedule, Malverne Mayor Patricia McDonald opened the floor to discuss how this procedure often forces commuters on the West Hempstead branch to take more dangerous routes to work — and the fact that the branch’s weekend service has been suspended for the past four years.
“People have to get into their cars, the roads are not safe — I mean, they’re difficult to maneuver — to go into either Lynbrook or Valley Stream, and it’s very frustrating,” McDonald said.
Rosalie Norton, president of the West Hempstead Community Support and Civic Association, said that the absence of West Hempstead weekend service has negatively affected local businesses, including National Wholesale Liquidators, behind the station, which she said plans to expand and improve its property in the coming months. Also heavily dependent on the LIRR, Norton said, is West 130 — an apartment complex a quarter of a mile from the West Hempstead station with 150 units, which has reached about 89 percent of its occupancy, she said — but potential renters have backed out of signing leases due to the infrequent train service.
“We need that weekend service, and if you think about it, we pay as much taxes as anybody else and we’re really not getting our fair share of that,” Norton said. “…When you look at all the other stations that are being revitalized, [with] restored services, I feel like we’re the stepchild of Nassau County or the MTA.”