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MTA: Same issues a year later

No improvements at stations, residents say

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For more than a year, the Wantagh and Seaford Long Island Rail Road stations and their surroundings have seen damage by vandalism, including broken windows and graffiti, as well as maintenance issues, such as malfunctioning elevators and escalators. Some residents say the response times to repair the damages have been insufficient.

“When we reported a cracked window, it took three months to be fixed,” said Chris Carini, vice president of the Seaford branch of the Wantagh-Seaford Homeowners Association. “It took a month for an escalator that we called for repeatedly. Over a month now we are working on the graffiti on the overpass of Seamans Neck Road, and still have no time frame because we are told graffiti removal is not a priority. Between the money we pay in property taxes and for the LIRR, it’s way too much for our community to look like this.”

Carini and other members of the WSHA often take to the group’s Facebook page to discuss current community nuisances. They also share phone numbers of organizations that deal with these issues, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the MTA Police, the LIRR, local fire departments and the Nassau County Police Department.

The group calls these organizations when vital aspects of the neighborhood, like the railroad station escalator, are out of order.

“We called for a month for that,” Carini said. “Then [on Apr. 28], when multiple people called and got on them, the next day, maintenance showed up after a month of the LIRR office saying the timetable would be much longer.”

There were a pair of incidents at the Wantagh LIRR station last year.

On Feb. 26, 2018, the station obtained the first elevator in its 50-year history due in large part to Phase I of a $27.8 million MTA-financed platform-replacement project. One week later, on March 5, 11 commuters were trapped in the newly built lift and were rescued by the local fire department. Four days later, 11 more passengers were stuck inside the elevator and missed their morning commutes before being saved by the Wantagh Fire Department.

Other stations have yet to install elevators. State Sen. John Brooks, a Seaford native, commented on the lack of handicapped access to elevated railroad platforms.

“I think one of my biggest concerns with our railroad stations is the fact that there are four consecutive stations on the Babylon South branch still lacking elevators,” Brooks said. “One more has recently been put in, but that’s not good enough. We have a fairly high number of disabled individuals in our communities, and it isn’t fair to them.”

On the subject of graffiti, Brooks said, “I haven’t gotten any calls of complaints to my office specifically” about it. “I mostly hear of cancellation of trains, and some rat complaints, which were taken care of.”

The WSHA also says it wants more outreach to the homeless people who frequent the stations. In a 2018 report by the Suffolk County Legislature, the number of homeless individuals on Long Island was put at 3,868. Posts on the group’s Facebook page show that it is urging community members to call the MTA Police to create a homeless outreach team. In New York City, the MTA hired the Bowery Residents Committee, a nonprofit organization, to take on homeless outreach.

“In the city they have the BRC; on Long Island, we contact the MTA homeless outreach teams, but we need more in the suburbs,” Carini said.

“They are fantastic,” he said of the MTA police. “I just think they are understaffed. They’re great when you call the government affairs office; they’re just slow. But when you have only 700 uniformed officers for all of New York City, including the boroughs and Long Island, its tough.”

Carini said that although the force is effective, he believes higher numbers would result in fewer incidents of theft, theft from autos, and harassment near LIRR stations.

“I have heard incidents of people following female passengers to their cars near the station,” Carini said.

MTA’s last reported number of official MTA Police officers was 716. Other unofficial and unconfirmed reports have been lower.

A person associated with the MTA, who requested anonymity, claimed that the number of those with the “title of officer” could be as low as 600, and that “guys are frustrated” with the current resources. Asked for an official number of officers, the MTA declined to comment. The department also allegedly has two assigned squad cars for all of Nassau County.

Brooks could not confirm that number, but commented on the issue of squad cars and plans to increase coverage. “The number of squad cars is limited,” Brooks said. “We are currently making arrangements for stationing another car at the Freeport train station.”

Brooks also noted the effectiveness of the response from local police and fire departments in emergencies.

“The fire departments and Nassau County Police Department come quick and are very effective in handling those scenarios,” Brooks said.

One of the WSHA’s successes has been the addition of security camera warning signs placed near the Wantagh and Seaford LIRR stations in July, including over bike racks.

In a post on the organization’s Facebook page, Carini explains, “Most of these stolen bikes are going unreported. Hopefully, increased camera coverage, including the signage, will help with some of the issues our communities have been facing at the train stations.”

The WSHA represents the concerns of the people on a communal level. The issues experienced by Wantagh and Seaford civilians are not unique to the area, but the association acknowledges that they have persisted for over a year now.

“We won’t back down on this,” Carini said. “I will take responsibility for voicing our concerns for the [betterment] of our community.”