By Ivan Pereira
State leaders, transit officials and historians celebrated the Long Island Rail Road’s 175th anniversary Friday by thanking its employees with a big party.
Dozens of LIRR workers joined the agency’s president, Helena Williams, MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger and others for the gala event at the Jamaica AirTrain station. Williams said the rail service is the largest and most reliable commuter service in the nation, with a 95.14 percent record of onâˆ’time trains, and credited its success to its 6,800 employees.
“We are proud of our past and as we move on we are proud of our future,” she said.
The LIRR was created on April 24, 1834, as a connection for ferry service between New York and New England. Manhattan riders would take the train to Norfolk where they could take the ferry to Connecticut and continue on rail to Boston.
Some of the first stops on the LIRR’s line included Woodside and Jamaica.
Over the years, it expanded into a commuter line for Long Island residents to travel between destinations in Nassau and Suffolk counties and New York City.
Hemmerdinger said the LIRR did more than just transport people during the turn of the 20th century, when Queens and Long Island were predominantly rural land. Commuters were able to discover new places to live and work as the borough and counties developed both commercially and residentially, according to the MTA head.
“For over 175 years, the economic and social aspects of Long Island have been helped by the LIRR,” he said.
MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander, said the projects like the East Side Access to Grand Central Station and the new Moynihan Station on the West Side would continue the tradition of offering improved service to consumers. Although the MTA is facing a major deficit and fare increases for its passengers are imminent, Sander said he thinks the agency will continue to give riders satisfactory service.
“These are indeed exciting times for the Long Island Rail Road,” he said.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith (Dâˆ’St. Albans), who has been trying to work out a plan in Albany to help the MTA, agreed and said he and his fellow state leaders would do all they could to make sure commuters do not suffer during the recession.
“If there is any doubt … that we are committed to making sure that the MTA has the necessary resources … you don’t know us,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 146.