Jitters Over Looming L.I.R.R. Strike

Contingency buses would reach only Ronkonkoma
Morgan McGivern

With a potential Long Island Rail Road strike looming, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and his counterpart in Southampton, Anna Throne-Holst, have been meeting to discuss what to do should the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its L.I.R.R. unions fail to reach agreement on contract terms.

A walkout of 5,400 workers could begin at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday.

The railroad’s contingency plan includes alternative transportation for L.I.R.R. riders only as far east as Ronkonkoma, Mr. Cantwell said, and the supervisors are concerned about the impact here of a lack of public transportation.

In a July 10 letter to Patrick Now­akowski, the Long Island Rail Road president, Mr. Cantwell said he was “appealing . . . for a contingency plan to provide alternate public transportation bus service to and on the East End in the event of a strike.”

“Should a strike occur and no alternate transportation is available to meet the demand of second-home owners, visitors, and tourists, the East End will suffer a severe economic loss,” he wrote.

Concern centers not only on the economic effect, Mr. Cantwell said at Town Hall on Tuesday, but also on the additional traffic here that could create gridlock should many who would have arrived by train decide to drive instead.

Mr. Cantwell said that both supervisors had contacted the Hampton Jitney and that the bus company was willing to step into the void and provide additional service.

In his letter to the L.I.R.R. chief, Mr. Cantwell asked for permission to use the Montauk railroad station, which is owned by the L.I.R.R., as a bus stop and parking area.

Railroad union officials are reportedly preparing for a strike lasting as long as a month. Negotiations stalled early this week, but were expected to resume yesterday afternoon.

In a statement on Tuesday, Representative Tim Bishop, who represents the East End’s Congressional district, and Representatives Steve Israel and Peter King said they were “extremely disappointed to learn that the M.T.A. left negotiations” on Monday without presenting a counteroffer. “Both sides need to be at the negotiating table nonstop to work out an agreement that keeps the transit work force on the job and keeps     “A compromise must be reached,” the representatives said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had said that he would not get involved, but he issued a statement yesterday calling the L.I.R.R. “a critical transportation system of Long Island and New York City,” and said that “we must do everything we can to prevent Long Islanders from being held hostage by a strike.”

A key sticking point centers on employee contributions to pensions and health insurance costs. The last L.I.R.R. strike was in 1994.