Senator Johnson Discusses Third Track, Jericho Turnpike
The Citizens’ Party recently held its second community forum at the American Legion Hall. Floral Park residents had an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns with local village and government officials.
Mayor Kevin Greene told the audience that these events offer residents an opportunity to bring state level and Nassau County level people together. Greene updated citizens on important initiatives, including a recycling project that has increased revenue for the village. He noted that Floral Park Village officials have been doing a great job in spearheading the village’s recycling program. “Finally we reached an area where recycling is making money and paper is that area. We are estimating near $35,000 that we can put back in the village funds as a result of their efforts… going Green is the way to go today,” Mayor Greene quipped. Village Trustee James Rhatigan also explained that the recycling has helped the village. “Now we are receiving monies for our paper waste rather than paying to dispose of it,” Rhatigan stated.
Also on the agenda is the creation of a Substance Awareness Committee. The mayor explained that on June 5, he is appearing with the PTA and SADD organization on a local TV show to discuss important issues for substance abuse and youth. Greene, a father of five, hopes the committee can work together to educate parents about recognizing problems early on and how to solve them.
Greene also praised Town Supervisor Kate Murray for her work on derailing the MTA’s Third Track plan. Recently Murray announced that the MTA has taken the project off their capital plan until 2015. He thanked all the residents and town officials who worked together to stop the plan. “The person that we really need to point our finger at, who did an outstanding job, is former Mayor Phil Guarnieri,” he stated. The mayor also warned that the plan could eventually be put back on the table. “In 2015, we believe it will start to show its ugly face again, but then again, it could happen anytime. The MTA always seems to find money,” Greene stated.
Trustee Rhatigan, liaison to the fire and police departments, explained that the police department has been faced with some “disturbing incidents” of vandalism and theft of parking meters. Rhatigan said that residents should take comfort by local police. He also stated that through a grant, the police department has received a real-time communication monitor. The monitor is overseen by county police, but incorporates all the individual village and municipal police departments in Nassau County. “It’s a visual representation on a big screen monitor that’s kept in the turnout room of the police headquarters and it’s really giving the activity in all of the areas, not only Floral Park but the areas surrounding Floral Park,” Rhatigan said. He also noted that due to budget constraints, the village will not be receiving any new police vehicles this year. “We never overlook the possibility of grant monies becoming available but generally for vehicles it would be an extraordinary event, so we don’t see that happening,” he added.
The Floral Park Fire Department takes generally 1,300 calls a year and 100 calls a month. According to the mayor, the majority of those calls are “rescue calls.” Rhatigan also noted that the fire department is actively seeking grants on a federal or state level to receive required training and equipment.
One resident asked Village Trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki for an update on the four-month reconstruction of JFK Airport’s Bay Runway, which has resulted in increased aircraft flying over Floral Park. “There have been four separate occasions runway traffic in 48 hours, however, it was solely due to weather conditions and, even if the bay runway had been open, they still would have flown over Floral Park,” Tomecki explained. “So I take some relief in that and I have to praise the residents of Floral Park who have been extremely supportive on this issue. I think the mayor and the village board are only as strong as the residents,” she added. Tomecki also said the runway construction project is progressing on time. “They anticipate that, at the end of June, this will be done and they will get the $5 million bonus,” she said.
The rehabilitation of Jericho Turnpike was also a point of concern for residents. In September of 2008, the Floral Park Village Board, along with several of its civic association leaders, participated in a public hearing in support of a long overdue project to improve safety conditions, reduce traffic congestion and rehabilitate pavement conditions on Jericho Turnpike. The project was temporarily suspended due to New York State’s deteriorating financial situation. According to Tomecki, Senator Craig Johnson restored $900,000 of funding to conduct the engineering study needed to jumpstart the project, which is slated to begin in the summer of 2012.
“I do want to credit the Senator [Johnson] for any progress that has been made on the facelift, for lack of a better word, of Jericho. It was a project that had been tabled two years ago. But it was his office that secured an engineering study that will bring that project back to life. It’s about 30 years overdue,” she stated.
Senator Johnson was the guest speaker of the evening. He stated that while he has only been a senator for three years, “It feels like 30,” he joked. He praised the Village of Floral Park for their joint efforts on “bread and butter issues” like the Third Track project and Jericho Turnpike. “My office and your office have developed a terrific relationship. I want to thank you,” he stated.
Johnson further explained his role in stopping the MTA from going forward with their plans to put a Third Track on the Long Island Rail Road. “There’s no Third Track because I am on the board. If you are not aware, the MTA capital board is a four-member board that approves all MTA projects through a five-year plan,” Johnson said. He stated that if any one board member votes ‘no,’ the plan is defeated. “Once I was selected and put on the board, they knew they couldn’t do it because I would’ve vetoed the plan. It was a simple decision,” he stated.
Adding to the Jericho Turnpike discussion, the senator pointed out that the issue has been a sore spot for his predecessor and even his predecessor’s predecessor. He said he searched for monies to address the issue. “I am literally looking under couches and under benches to find as much money as I can. It’s a hard thing to do…We [the state] are broke. The best example of that is that we are 49 days late on a state budget,” Johnson explained.
Johnson also spoke about implementing legislation that would provide a property tax cap for residents, which he said the Assembly does not support. He discussed how property taxes are crippling residents and a tax cap would allow people to “live within their means.” He also defended his stance on education reform and its unpopularity with teachers’ unions. “They (teachers unions), literally control the state assembly.” he said. “The spending has got to stop and I’m trying to shake up Albany by challenging the status quo.”
For more information on the next Citizens’ Party Community Forum, visit www.fpcitizensparty.com.