New York State Assemblymen Brian Curran and Edward Ra recently tackled some of the most talked-about issues in Malverne during their first town-hall style meeting with residents.
A small group gathered in Village Hall on May 26 to hear what the local officials had to say about efforts to address the brown tap water and train service cuts in the village, and air their own concerns.
“We are hear just to listen,” said Curran, who represents the southern part of Malverne, while Ra oversees the north side of the railroad tracks.
“You’re supposed to listen twice as much as you talk...that’s the best way you can serve,” Ra added. “This is a very basic and very traditional American way of hearing what people are concerned with.”
Curran started off the meeting by applauding the “astounding” work of Malverne Mayor Patricia Norris McDonald and the village board, and each man offered condolences upon learning of the of Deputy Mayor James Callahan before moving on to their agendas.
“[Callahan was] a great, great individual who was so dedicated to this community,” Ra said.
Curran prefaced his discussion on the elimination of the most popular commuter train from the West Hempstead branch of the Long Island Rail Road, by saying,
“I can’t promise you’re going to like the answer we give you but it will be the truth.”
Curran said he and Ra recently met with Helena Williams, president of MTA Long island Rail Road (LIRR), to reiterate their request to restore the 7:24 a.m. train.
“It is a hardship for commuters, because now the early train gets them in too early and the later one gets them in too late so a lot of them are being forced to go to other communities to pick up that train,” Curran said.
According to Curran, Williams told them that the train was cut due to a “funding matter” related to the deficient the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently running, but it is a priority (“top two”) on LIRR’s restoration list.
He further explained the reason why this train was cut even though it is one of the busiest is because it required a connecting train out of Long Beach that was also eliminated.
When asked if this could become a “top one” priority, Curran was told that Williams could not guarantee this.
“What I can guarantee is that we will continue to press her,” he said, adding that he was optimistic the situation would improve over the next two years.
He then switched gears, moving on to what he learned months ago was a top issue among Malverne residents - water quality, saying that the public raised “absolutely legitimate concerns” with Long Island American Water (LIAW) President Bill Varley.
“There are a host of things that Long Island American Water promised to do, but the only thing that will really, truly, drastically improve the quality of water here in Malverne is a change in infrastructure,” he said.
He called the implementation of the iron filtration plant on Franklin Avenue a “good step,” but said LIAW needs to invest in replacing the old water mains that run throughout the village in order for residents to see the desired improvements in their tap water.
Curran said he met with Varley, pressing him on this matter, and the LIAW president agreed to more than double the company’s investment in the infrastructure - from $382,000 in 2010 to over $743,000 for both of the next two consecutive years -baring any “unexpected economic pressure.”
This money will pay for 3,300 feet of new water lines to be laid in the village in 2011 and 2012.
He added that LIAW will also be installing another filtration plan in northern Lynbrook on Whitehall Street, which will improve the water quality in Malverne too.
“It’s an extremely positive step that we convinced Mr. Varley to significantly increase the investment in infrastructure here in Malverne,” Curran said, giving credit to Mayor McDonald and other elected officials for this accomplishment as well.
On the negative side, he did say that LIAW is seeking a rate increase right now that is pending approval by the proper government agencies.
They then opened the floor to residents, who spoke up about the in town, noisy planes flying overhead, the proposed tax cap and the MTA.
Larry Hoppenhauer, who commutes from Malverne, expressed his disapproval with the MTA’s excuses for cutting the popular morning train and all weekend service.
“How can she keep saying budget?” Hoppenhauer said, explaining that at the same time the MTA took away a train that commuters relied on they added another between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. that few use. Plus, they also implemented electronic signs on the platform.
“You’re kind of hitting the nail on the head with regard to the MTA,” Ra told him, explaining that the company has poorly managed their finances, including the payroll taxes that were meant to bail them out, which place a burden on local businesses and schools.
“It’s almost in some ways like throwing money down a hole,” Ra said. “We would like to see not only some of these things restored but the MTA really has some work to do in getting their house in order. Anyone paying a payroll tax is paying more and getting less.”