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Queens Chronicle

Pedestrians Crossing At LIRR In Little Neck Still Problematic

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Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 12:00 am

The situation has not gotten any better at the Little Neck Long Island Rail Road tracks, where pedestrians, running to catch a train, continue to illegally cross when the trains are approaching.

Councilman Tony Avella is still waiting for an on-site meeting with Acting MTA President James Dermody after his officers conducted a ticket blitz last month on 39th Avenue. Pedestrians received summonses from MTA plainclothes police officers that ranged from $20 to $50.

While Avella understands the safety issue, he would like to work out a solution to the problem. “What people are doing is dangerous and they shouldn’t do it,” he said. “But we should come up with a way to make it easier to get across the tracks.” Little Neck is one of the few remaining stations where the tracks are not elevated.

The councilman noted that Douglaston has a pedestrian tunnel and the Bayside station has an overpass. MTA officials have said that they sympathize with people getting tickets but that their most pressing concern is the safety of their passengers and employees.

“We are looking for a solution to this, not to penalize the people,” Avella said. “I have heard that the local residents don’t want an overhang so I am inviting members of the Little Neck Pines Association to the on-site meeting.”

Pat Black, secretary of the Little Neck Pines civic group, said it would be tough to add a tunnel there and an overpass would be unsightly. “There is no easy answer. The problem has been going on for years.”

She suggests a better barrier when the gates go down while Avella believes improved signage would also help. Black admits she used to run across the tracks when she was getting a train to Manhattan and would also like to see an MTA official posted at the gates in the morning.

“This mostly happens in the morning when people are rushing to get the train to the city,” she said. “But quite honestly, I’m more concerned about the traffic and double parkers around the station.”

Avella also favors an improved gate design. “Currently, the gate doesn’t prevent people from walking around it when the train is approaching. What is needed is another way to make it easier for passengers to get to their train.”

But Avella fears the ticket blitz will only create a more dangerous situation. “While I understand the need to increase safety at this location, the method seems to be self-defeating,” he wrote to Dermody. “The situation has become more dangerous. Commuters realizing MTA officers are present are often caught in the middle of the tracks and become like a deer in the headlights, not knowing whether to cross or return to the other side.”

The MTA had no word on when the on-site meeting would be held.

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