Rally in the rain to protest MTA

Local elected officials are calling on the MetropolitanTransportation Authority to reconsider its proposal to eliminaterail service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport.

If not, they said, the MTA will face the possibility that East Endtowns will secede from the transportation agency.

“It’s absolutely wrong,” New York State Assemblyman Marc Alessi(D-Shoreham) said of the MTA’s proposal during a Monday morningpress conference at the Riverhead train station.

About 50 people stood outside the station in the rain to protestthe proposal, which would affect about 200 commuters daily.

The MTA wants to eliminate all Long Island Rail Road servicebetween the Ronkonkoma and Greenport stations, with the exceptionof summer weekends, by September. The move, part of an effort toclose the agency’s $400 million budget shortfall, would save theMTA about $991,000 a year.

Four eastbound and four westbound trains would be eliminated Mondaythrough Friday and two eastbound and two westbound would beeliminated on weekends, leaving North Fork riders with noalternative rail service.

Mr. Alessi and county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches)vowed to fight the proposed change, explaining that the East End’slocal businesses were hit hard last year, when the state approved apayroll tax on all businesses, government agencies and schools inan effort to close the MTA’s original $1.2 billion budget gap.

“It’s taxation without transportation,” said Southold TownSupervisor Scott Russell.

Eight public hearings will be scheduled to discuss the proposal inMarch, although none will be held locally. The hearings will takeplace in White Plains, the Bronx, Carle Place, Brooklyn, Flushing,Manhattan, Suffern and Staten Island, officials said.

Mr. Romaine and Mr. Alessi said that if the MTA decides toeliminate rail service east of Ronkonkoma, then the East End shouldinvestigate seceding from the MTA and establishing its owntransportation authority.
“It’s time to put up or get out of the way,” Mr. Alessi said.