Crumbling concrete, weakened overpasses, rusting rebar. It’s a fact of life at the Valley Stream Long Island Rail Road station, Mayor Edwin Fare says. But that kind of deterioration is dangerous — and exactly why intervention is needed.
Fare took his battle right to the source last week, joined by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Phillips. There they made the case for urgent, long-sought station upgrades.
“We are demanding that the Long Island Rail Road take a look around at what Valley Streamers have to look at every day,” Fare said. “Every day we have concrete, some kind of slime oozing down, falling on people and cars on a daily basis on some of our overpasses.”
Blakeman urged the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the LIRR, “to fix this rail station and make it presentable.”
A walk around the station reveals some obvious eyesore like rust stains on beams, leaking mineral residue dripping down onto the street, and tiles missing from the roof.
But while the bad presentation is one thing, both the mayor and the county executive argue the scale of the problem facing the station is far worse than just natural wear and tear or cosmetic hang-ups.
The longer conditions at the station remain the same, says Fare, the higher the risk for commuters and cars who must use a station that is operationally unsanitary and dangerous.
The MTA swiftly rebuffed those allegations, arguing through spokeswoman Kayla Shultz that inspectors routinely check all stops, and that “all parts of the Valley Stream station are safe and structurally sound.”
Whether the station needs a major facelift, urgent overhauls — or something in between — some LIRR riders like Joonmarie Roca-Bush agree the station’s current conditions bode poorly on the reputation of the community.
“Realistically, I need to take the train station, so I’m not discouraged by these problems,” she said. “But aesthetically speaking, this is a major station, and we have a lot of tourists that come to visit. If it looked better, I’d be prouder to be around here. We take it every day, and we deserve a better platform.”
“I’ve seen other stations without these problems — like the drippings under the bridge,” said another commuter, Peter Bazelais. “And they’re small things that can be touched upon. But I do feel it’s safe for me to ride on the station. Just the sanitation needs work.”
Train stations like those in Valley Stream are set to pick up a significant amount of money through the MTA’s multi-billion-dollar capital program, Shults said. That was approved in January 2020, aimed at modernizing the LIRR.
Yet, despite Nassau County “spending millions and millions of dollars on the MTA for maintenance of our train stations,” Blakeman said, “they’re not doing the job.” And promises of renewal are long overdue.
At the same time, Blakeman admits MTA is spending money — just not on Long Island. Instead the agency is “diverting money to New York City.” That’s something MTA chief John McCarthy denies.
As it stands, there is nearly $870 million earmarked for LIRR station upgrades, a hefty chunk of which intends to make 11 train stations — including the one in Valley Stream — more accessible to riders with disabilities. That translates to $18 million to update and replace the elevator and escalator locally.
Bringing the stairs, elevator and escalator into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act was a move Fare said was “imperative for many of our commuters.”
But the capital plan falls short in outlining the specific set-aside of funds for rehabilitating the Valley Stream station — at least in the ways Fare, Blakeman and several others would hope. MTA officials, nevertheless, made assurances that by the end of the capital program in the next two years, “92 percent of stations and their related assets will be in a state of good repair.”
Also bucking against claims the Valley Stream station’s upkeep has been largely ignored, MTA officials pointed to the fact the platform waiting rooms at the station were redone last year, and train services to the station will expand in the coming months.
But Fare is not convinced.
“The ground level ticket office and waiting room” may have been updated, but “the elevated platform waiting room appears to have been patched, at best,” the mayor said. “Almost half the roof has been missing for much more than one year. There are leaks and broken benches. Filth and exposed hazards are still clearly visible.”
He also harbors doubt anticipated renovations will come in time before the MTA-imposed deadline.
“We have not seen adequate work toward these urgent problems, and have no assurances that capital monies will be expended in time,” Fare said in a statement.
The mayor’s skepticism is fueled in part from MTA allegedly pouring $5 million into enhancing the Valley Stream station, as announced by then Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2017. Those results — realized two years later — left much to be desired, according to village officials and commuters.
Some like the mayor felt the upgrades including a new platform and waiting areas, LED lighting, Wi-Fi, charging stations, digital information kiosks, and public artwork displays were left incomplete or missed the mark when addressing issues closer to home like broken vents in the waiting rooms of the elevated platform, mineral residue leaking from concrete, and other sanitation hazards.
But other commuters, like Gerrod Thompson, don’t mind the look of the station so long as service is running on time.
“I’m not concerned about this station,” Thompson said. “It seems OK to me. It just seems like they’re not using the space.”
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