'Summer of hell' isn't yet, for East Meadow commuters

MTA park-and-ride bus at Coliseum is underutilized


Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s warning in May that Long Island Rail Road riders should brace for a “summer of hell” that would likely result from overdue track repair work at Manhattan’s Penn Station, most East Meadow commuters say they have yet to experience anything out of the norm.

“I had no problems,” Stephanie Zeitlin said as she waited for an 8:39 a.m. train at the Bellmore LIRR station last week. “The trains I took came in on time. I got to work on time. It was just like any other day.”

East Meadow does not have its own train station, so commuters choose from among several others: Hicksville or Westbury for north East Meadow and Salisbury residents, and Bellmore, Merrick, Seaford or Wantagh and for those closer to the South shore.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Penn Station Task Force announced plans earlier this month to offer additional transportation to commuters who would be affected by the eight-week-long infrastructure improvement project. In addition to a new ferry network and free subway transfers for LIRR weekly and monthly ticket-holders, the MTA introduced a park-and-ride service plan involving a network of 200 buses that transported LIRR commuters from stations across Nassau County to Manhattan.

But on July 11, the MTA announced that it would be cutting several park-and-ride stations because they were underutilized. According to the authority’s website, LIRR commuters can board buses at the Nassau Coliseum, Belmont Park, Seaford and Valley Stream. Buses depart every half-hour between 6 and 9 a.m., and stop first on Manhattan’s East Side, at 3rd Avenue and 34th Street, and then on the West Side, at Penn Station between 7th and 8th avenues. In the evening, the buses run every half-hour between 3 and 7 p.m., picking up commuters on the West Side and then the East Side.

When the Herald stopped by the 400-space Nassau Coliseum bus station, on the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Glenn Curtiss Boulevard, on a recent Friday, only 30 cars were parked there, and 10 coach buses were scattered throughout the lot.

For now, most commuters said, they would continue to use the LIRR stations closest to them, unless the commute became unbearable. “I think the worst is yet to come,” said KellyAnn Callahan, 22, of East Meadow. Many commuters have been avoiding Penn Station, Callahan said, and it feels like a ghost town. “I still think they should have given us a discount on tickets,” she added. “I leave early and drive to Seaford just for the parking spots. I used to drive to Merrick, but I’d drive around for half an hour and never find anything.”

Callahan has commuted to Manhattan for a few months. She said she would consider taking the bus from the depot at Nassau Coliseum.

Dave Totten, 36, and Greg Kebreau, 37, both of East Meadow, said they had not yet experienced any delays. The two were waiting at the Bellmore station for the 8:13 a.m. train to Penn, which arrived on time. “So far I haven’t really been impacted by it,” Kebreau said.

But Totten voiced his concerns, saying, “When something does go wrong, it will be an absolute nightmare … The MTA never really goes into detail, but I’m anticipating that something will go wrong.”

Rebecca Anderson, Brian Stieglitz and Julianne Loney contributed to this story.