UPDATE: a strike has been averted after Governor Cuomo stepped in and negotiated with the unions and the MTA.
With a strike looming, LIRR ‘reverse commuters’ from Brooklyn will awaken to a grim reality Monday morning: there’s no contingency plan for them and few alternative options are available, officials say.
“The Long Island Railroad does not operate on its own lonely island,” Borough President Eric Adams fumed at a press conference convened Thursday morning at the foot of the Atlantic Avenue LIRR terminal. “We cannot have a contingency plan that brings some commuters to their destination but leaves others unaccounted for.”
Adams called the press conference after learning that MTA’s ‘contingency plans’ in case of a strike would only handle commuters from Long Island heading into Brooklyn and Manhattan, but not vice versa. Brooklyn residents who ride the rails out east are essentially stranded, Adams claimed. Options that could help ‘reverse commuters,’ like shuttle buses leaving from Archer Avenue in Jamaica, Atlantic Avenue and even the Navy Yard, connected with ferries and other alternatives, have gone unexplored.
“We need to avoid overcrowding an overflowing city streets. A plan should be in place well in advance, not the eve of the strike day,” Adams said. “We are three days away now. We can’t wait until the last minute.”
City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, head of the Transportation Committee, explained that workers have a right to strike, but that it should be a “last resort.”
“Labor deals were not possible under Bloomberg,” Rodriguez said. “But in the past few months, we’ve seen that such deals are possible under the current leadership. In this case, it’s the Governor who is putting his leadership on the table to hopefully avoid a strike.”
Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, whose district includes the Atlantic Terminal station, was similarly “encouraged by recent negotiations” but urged the MTA to come up with a more responsible contingency plan.
Despite such cautious optimism, officials agreed that more had to be done to help Brooklynites prepare for the worst.
Mark J. Epstein, Esq., Chair of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council, railed against the MTA for its lack of communication to all 300,000 daily riders regarding what contingency plans are in place, if any.
“The MTA says it needs 24-48 hours for buses and other alternative modes of transportation to be up and running,” Epstein said. “So if this strike starts at midnight Monday morning, will those be up in time? Do people need a ticket to get on buses? Is there preference for monthly ticket holders? Is there a place to file a complaint or report problems? We don’t know the answers,” Epstein said.
Epstein mentioned how the Commuter’s Council was told it would be included in crafting alternative transportation but then was “frozen out” of contingency planning. He also mentioned the Barclays Center and other events as likely being disrupted by the loss of service.
Indeed, economic reverberations will ripple far and wide. Brooklyn resident Karen Heaps, who lives in Boerum Hill, said she runs a business (the specifics of which she declined to specify) in Manhattan, and worries about the loss of clients.
“I have clients in Long Island who said they simply won’t be able to make it in see me,” Heaps said.
Matt Kessler, the Borough President’s appointee to the Long Island Railroad’s Commuter Council, added that a whole a host of hospital patients, medical staff, and students took part in ‘reverse commutes,’ and that the lack of planning for them will cause a “major disaster with traffic.”
Union officials and the MTA continue to negotiate.