By Rich Bockmann
The Locust Manor Long Island Rail Road station in Springfield Gardens is scheduled to undergo some long-awaited repairs at the end of the summer, and while the plan falls short of what the community ultimately wants, officials are already looking ahead to find more funding.
Beginning in mid-September, construction crews will take about six weeks to demolish the two staircases at the western end of the platform near the ticket machines, replacing them with solid-aluminum staircases equipped with treads, lighting and railings, according to Bill Mays, the LIRR engineer in charge of the project.
Once the stairs are done, work will begin on the Manhattan-bound side of the platform to replace the two steel shelters with 40-foot-long aluminum shelters bound by tempered safety glass on the fronts and sides.
“These new shelters will give much more protection from the weather,” Mays said. “By the end of November we should be set.”
Mays spoke to community members at the Salem Missionary Baptist Church last week during a meeting hosted by the Springfield Gardens Taxpayers & Citizens Association. The association has been discussing major renovations to the station since 2008, and state Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-St. Albans) was able to secure $400,000 in capital funding for the project.
Once the railroad started looking at the station, though, it became clear there was more work to be done than first anticipated.
“When we first gave an update to Assemblyman Scarborough, we assumed certain things were sound with the station, such as structural supports and concrete,” said LIRR spokesman Bob Brennan. “But once we got in there, we found a bad asbestos problem. It really took us by surprise.”
Mays said the asbestos in the shelters’ rear panels is not the type that becomes airborne, so it will not pose a breathing hazard during construction, but remediation added both cost and time to the project.
The station is adjacent to Rochdale Village, which has a large senior population, and community members felt the plans lacked certain features, such as access to the high platform via an escalator or elevator as well as security cameras to deter those who loiter around the station. Other requests included a new ticket machine, as well as replacing the shelters on the east-bound tracks and the eastern staircases.
Brennan said that while the LIRR has seen a marked increase in ridership this year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s financial future was still uncertain, and the project’s funding simply would not allow for the additional requests.
Scarborough said it would be up to community members and other elected officials to take the project into a second phase.
“We need to be thankful that they’re going to build a better station. Let’s go forward from here,” he said. “We understand what has been done is not the totality of what needs to be done.”
City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), who is running for state Senate, pledged to work with the community and other elected officials to explore additional funding.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.