When Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino was a young boy his father, Joseph, was an Oyster Bay town councilman. The supervisor told an auditorium filled with approximately 800 people at Jericho High School that he could still remember a time when people came to his house carrying signs against a tunnel. When he asked his father why, he was told it was the residents’ way of sending a message, to make it clear that they were opposed to a tunnel to Westchester. “Dad said ‘They don’t want their communities destroyed, they don’t want the problems of tremendous traffic, the potential for more crime and the impact it will have on the bay.’” That was in the 1970’s. The threat of creating a sound crossing by way of a tunnel, bridge, or both, has been broached nine other times over the years.
The latest proposal was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 5 during his State of the State. At that time, he said, “We have to think bold. We have to think big. We are New Yorkers. There is nothing we can’t do.”
Then he announced his plans for a cross-sound tunnel. The final design indicates a single multi-level tube with two lanes on each level that would be 18 miles long. Nine miles would be under the Long Island Sound, and the other nine miles underground in Long Island and Westchester. The entrances and exits would be north of the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway and Jericho Turnpike, and south of the New England Thruway and Playland Parkway. The project, estimated at $31.5 billion would take 12-15 years to complete.
The Town of Oyster Bay committed to hosting what was the third Long Island Sound Tunnel public information meeting on Monday because Saladino said people need to know the affect the tunnel will have. “It is my belief and the belief of the Oyster Bay Town Board that this project would have many negative impacts on the communities within our town,” he said. “And it poses significant risks to all of Long Island and to our state.”
The tunnel would bring a tremendous influx of traffic, especially from diesel trucks, air pollution, and would destroy the aquifer that people on the North Shore depend upon for drinking water, he said. “It will devastate our suburban quality of life. I think you can probably tell that I’m not on the fence on this project.”
The Village of Bayville Anti-Tunnel Committee then shared the PowerPoint presentation it had brought to two other meetings —in Bayville and Locust Valley. Rita Bologna, a former Bayville deputy mayor and a committee member offered a warning. “I’m hoping you realize this project is moving forward and to be stopped, will require constant effort,” she said. “Construction would begin with the state seizing property through eminent domain and tearing down homes and businesses and this would begin in 2023, upon completion of an environmental impact study which begins this September.”
Committee member Jen Jones, addressed the governor’s belief that adding the tunnel would reduce traffic on Long Island. “A tunnel will not relieve traffic,” she said. “Induced demand. That’s the theory that the more roadways you create the more vehicles will come out to drive on them until there is just as much congestion as before.”
Peter Janow, the executive director of another group, the Coalition Against an Unsound Crossing, said plans are underway for advertising on television and in print, and also radio spots to stop the tunnel.
Legislator Josh Lafazan, who represents the 18th District, which includes Oyster Bay, has attended all of the anti-tunnel meetings. He encouraged people to become united. “Building a tunnel through the heart of this district will make the millennials run even faster,” he said, adding that people need to remain vigilant in the fight against a tunnel.
Although it appeared that most people were against the tunnel during the public comment period a Glen Cove resident expressed his support for it. “Try getting over the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges,” Richard Schultz said. “The cars and trucks are all lined up. I’ve always been for a bridge to Connecticut to get off this island. We are landlocked here.”