I have been commuting on the Long Island Railroad for more than 40 years.
I sweltered in the old diesel trains during the dog days of summer. I sat in frigid cold cars during the dead of winter. I remember smoking cars, bar cars and college classroom cars. I recall Montauk-bound cars with large wicker lounge chairs and vested waiters serving gin-and tonic to weekend revelers.
I can still hear the bantering that surrounded raucous card games played atop “borrowed” advertising posters. My mind’s eye even sees Dashing Dan on the side of every car.
I do not regret my time on the train. I made many friends there; composed more than one successful sales presentation and saved years of wear-and-tear on my car.
If I use my current property tax as a barometer of the relative levies that I’ve paid over the last four decades, I estimate that our family has funded the calculated equivalent of more than $1,100,000 in real estate taxes since 1968.
Yes, more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
That’s a sizeable chunk of change.
Over the last ten years or so, I have watched the steady decline of the parking garages at the Huntington LIRR Station. Maintenance at the two facilities – save for a few strokes of a paint to cover graffiti; the placement of lolly columns to shore-up the crumbling concrete; and the installation of charging stations for the few electric cars that are used by commuters – has been non-existent.
These two garages are major assets of the Town but they have been allowed to crumble into disrepair. In fact, the February 9, 2009 Desman Associates report commissioned by the Town clearly illustrated that the South Structure was in “fair to poor condition.” The report went on to say that the “structure is experiencing age and corrosion related deterioration that should be addressed in order to prevent major structural issues in the future.”
Desman’s analysis continued with pages of structural concerns and remedial recommendations. But today, nearly 4 years later, the garages continue to erode. Nothing; – literally NOTHING – has been done to address the problems identified by the consulting team.
The deterioration of the parking garages is a blatant illustration of Town management’s lack of basic administrative acumen. It’s a failure of enormous financial and managerial proportions. And now that the decline has reached the crisis stage, the bureaucrats are trying to bury their failures in a classic knee-jerk reaction. They are attempting to raise the user fees to astronomical levels in the hope that their failure to maintain the structures will not be felt by the entire tax-paying community; – only the LIRR commuters whose voices are not loud enough to cause embarrassment.
It is curious to this commuter that during this extended period of managerial failure, the Town Board has found money to fund far less important (some might say “frivolous”) projects.
For example . . . .
They decided that hand laying hundreds of thousands of red bricks on the sidewalks of Route 25A and Route 110 from Huntington Village all the way into Huntington Station was more important than maintaining an asset that is worth tens of millions of dollars.
They concluded that purchasing hybrid buses with multi-six figure price tags and allowing them to meander up and down Route 110 with only a handful of passengers on each trip is a more prudent expenditure than maintaining an asset that accommodates thousands of commuters every day. Have we any idea what it costs to operate those buses on an annual basis?
They determined that placing a mini-park in front of a pawn shop and an auto parts store on Route 110 in Huntington Station is a better use of Town funds than maintaining the single-most important asset that LIRR commuters have at their disposal. They have decreed that stretching our school, road and public service infra-structure to its breaking point by allowing dense housing on East 5th Street is a smarter choice than maintaining the LIRR parking garage. And even as this story is written, they have decided that installing a waterfall at the entrance to the LIRR Ticket Lobby parking lot is a better use of our precious funds than maintaining the parking garage.
We could all go on with these examples ad-nausea. The errors, imprudent decisions, fool-hardy expenditures, inappropriate choices and blatant mistakes that this Administration and its managerial staff have made over the years are mountainous.
And now they come before us, legislative sledge-hammer in hand, and seek to raise the LIRR garage parking fee to $600 per annum. Their plan is downright offensive.
Most commuters do not make the daily trek to New York City because we WANT to. We commute because we HAVE to.
Generally, we are wage earners who can only maintain our Huntington properties and their overwhelming tax burdens, by seeking employment in a major metropolitan area. None of us really wants to spend three hours a day commuting. We would rather spend that time with our family.
Properly maintaining the LIRR parking garage without an overburdening user fee is really just a question of priorities. And the Town’s priorities are clearly at conflict with those of us who pay the financial tab every year.
What’s your opinion?