Skip to main content

Featured Post

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

Belmont Park environmental review: ESD studying LIRR service for arena events only, no analysis of cost and source of funding

Newsday's Randi Marshall, in a column 8/29/14, found a key twist in the saga of the planned arena at Belmont Park, built by a consortium including owners of the New York Islanders:
Responding to questions about the potential expansion of Long Island Rail Road service at Belmont, the state’s development agency offered this bureaucratese:
“. . . While there have been discussions regarding the provision of additional LIRR service for the retail village during off-peak periods during times with no arena events, the transportation analyses in the DEIS [the draft environmental impact statement] will conservatively assess future conditions with additional LIRR service provided to Belmont Park station for arena events only.”
Translation: Empire State Development will study providing extra service only during New York Islanders games, concerts, and other events at the new arena.
However, Marshall inquired, and was told that officials at ESD said there is ongoing discussion about year-round service--it's just not being studied in the environmental review.

Previously, the public commitment, as I wrote for CityLab, was for events year-round, which could be 150 events a year--a big upgrade from the current, more limited schedule, and with much larger crowds.

Unanswered questions

The Response to Comments (on the Draft Scope for an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS) document, also at bottom, has several questions about LIRR service.

Notably, the document notes that the EIS will not address who will pay for that service, whether expanded service is even viable, or how expanded service will accommodate those coming from east of the arena site.

Here's a quote: "Moreover, a detailed engineering study and analysis of the source of LIRR funding to make Belmont Park a full-time rail station with rush hour commuter service is outside of the scope of this DEIS."

Also note:
From the document

I've bolded certain questions and answers for emphasis.

Comment 237: There are logistical constraints on the LIRR system. What are the proposed MTA LIRR services/improvements? Any reduction in service to or from Floral Park and Bellerose must be agreed to be avoided and prohibited under any circumstances. The MTA LIRR is concerned above providing LIRR service to Belmont. Also, there is no reason to believe that significant numbers of people travelling from eastern Long Island will travel by rail when the trip almost certainly will involve a reverse transfer at Jamaica. The analyses must not make unreasonable assumptions regarding rail use to falsely minimize road traffic volumes and impacts due to Belmont Park events. There are limitations that the current station and track have which would make it difficult, if not impossible, for service to be improved without massive infrastructure improvements. Where is the money going to come from? NYAP is committed to having the railroad station open by October of 2021 without it being in the capital plan. Increased rail service could reduce potential traffic impacts, but no viable option has been proposed. Any development would be assisted by a fully functioning station. LIRR service would have to be expanded to accommodate the projected numbers of visitors to the Proposed Project. (McEnery_133, B&D_130, Solages_051, MacDonald_111, McEnery_037, Muscarella_129, McDonald_057, Gullo_066)

Response: As discussed in the Draft Scope, the Transportation chapter of the DEIS will include a travel demand analysis that will consider the anticipated geographical distribution of visitors and account for local travel characteristics (e.g., auto use vs. transit use). Assumptions regarding the extent and reasonable utilization of train service will be confirmed with MTA/LIRR. The Final Scope also notes that the LIRR is committed to developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park station to accommodate the projected travel demand for events year-round; the extent and reasonable utilization of this service expansion will be confirmed with MTA/LIRR and described in the DEIS. Impacts due to additional project-generated transit travel, if any, will be determined in consultation with the corresponding transit agencies. While there have been discussions regarding the provision of additional LIRR service for the retail village during off-peak periods during times with no arena events, the transportation analyses in the DEIS will conservatively assess future conditions with LIRR service provided to Belmont Park station for arena events only.

Comment 64: What is the cost of the Proposed Project? Has the private financing for this project been secured? If not, how will adequate funding be secured? The project should be self-funded. Who will pay for the substation? Will there be additional cost to the taxpayers? Will any portion of the Project be funded by the State? How will MTA pay for the LIRR Service to Belmont? Who will the cost of the rail station and improvements to access points fall upon? (Solages_051, Kaminsky_049, Longobardi_126, Codner_041, Gillen_012, Morell_078, Weickert_036, RA_003, Longobardi_126, RA_003, Torre_006, Khan_075, B&D_130)
What is the public cost for the Proposed Project? What savings from exemptions and subsidies for the Proposed Project will the Applicant receive? What are the cost projections to upgrade transportation, infrastructure, water, sewage, gas, light, sales tax exemption on arena construction materials, and mortgage recording tax exemption? (BPCC_125)

Response: As detailed in the Draft Scope, the DEIS will assess the Proposed Project's demands on local community service providers, including police, fire, EMS, and sanitation services. If potential significant adverse impacts are identified, the DEIS will describe measures that could be implemented to mitigate adverse impacts. Moreover, the essential terms of the transaction will be set forth in the GPP for public review and comment. Purely economic impacts such as those related to cost, financing, and PILOT are beyond the scope of SEQRA.
There are no formal plans for a new rail station in connection with the Proposed Project. As noted in the Final Scope, however, there would be potential LIRR train service improvements. The DEIS will further describe LIRR train service improvements.

Comment 242: Mass transit service should be provided at all times, not only for events at the arena. Service should be provided for residents on both sides of the Nassau border, which would provide train service to the Elmont/Franklin Square communities and the rest of the southeastern Queens communities. There is a question whether the LIRR can provide direct service between Belmont Park and eastern Long Island. The MTA's 2014-'19 Five-Year Capital Plan, which has already been amended by the third-track project, does not contain funds for any design or engineering at the train station, let alone construction for improvement. How will the proposed service improvements be funded? A full-design with engineering and funding included in the next five-year capital plan would have to be in place for this to be a viable action. The community needs a full-service train station. The train station is also needed for the Proposed Project to be viable and to avoid or minimize traffic and parking impacts. Does the Proposed Project contemplate a permanent LIRR station at Elmont? The LIRR has stated its concerns with respect to providing increased train service to Belmont Park, particularly during peak hours. A reverse trip would be necessary for eastern Long Islanders. Does the Proposed Project’s success rest on the viability of the station improvements? (Cheng_027, Codner_041, Longobardi_013, Solages_051, Sexton_055, Phillips_064, Mohammed_110, Khan_118, McEnery_133, Lee_059, Lee_082, Solages_123)

Response: While the LIRR has stated that it is committed to developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park station for events year-round, the extent and utilization of this service expansion has not been confirmed by the MTA/LIRR. Moreover, a detailed engineering study and analysis of the source of LIRR funding to make Belmont Park a full-time rail station with rush hour commuter service is outside of the scope of this DEIS. Consultations between the Lead Agency, NYAP, and the MTA regarding LIRR service to Belmont Park station have been ongoing and while there have been discussions regarding the provision of additional LIRR service for the retail village during off-peak periods during times with no arena events, the transportation analyses in the DEIS will conservatively assess future conditions with additional LIRR service provided to Belmont Park station for arena events only. See also response to Comment 237.

Comment 244: The Long Island Rail Road service to Belmont Park is poor, and the LIRR, like the MTA in general, faces dire budget and maintenance problems. Who will pay for LIRR Service to the Proposed Project? What are the operational costs for Long Island Rail Road and how much will 150 events per year cost the police, fire, infrastructure and other services? Who will pay for station renovations? If the train station opens up during rush hour it will cause safety problems. Will the proposed LIRR improvements cost taxpayers money? (Amato_136, McEnery_133, Alfonsi_117, Lee_059, Lee_082, Weiner_SSAS_001)
Response: The issue of LIRR funding and operational costs for service providers is outside the scope of SEQRA analysis. As stated in the Draft Scope, the DEIS will include an analysis of potential impacts to community facilities and utilities. The Proposed Project does not contemplate train station improvements to accommodate event-based service. As stated in the Final Scope, the LIRR is committed to developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park station for events year-round; the extent and utilization of this service expansion will be confirmed with MTA/LIRR and described in the DEIS.

Comment 245: Development of the size and scope contemplated by this process will have an impact and drain on existing public transportation services and the surrounding communities’ existing utilities infrastructure. As part of its proposal, has the Developer/ESD presented a plan to use the existing LIRR station at Belmont Park? If so:
a. How does the Developer/ESD plan to accommodate the population east of the proposal with mass transit via the LIRR?
b. What branch of the LIRR will service the project?
c. Has the Developer/ESD provided a preliminary analysis on the impact that the additional service on that branch will have on the normal service of the branch?
d. Would the Belmont LIRR station be open with regular service for commuters?
e. If the Belmont LIRR station will be open with regular service for commuters, where will they park?
f. Does the proposal indicate whether there will be ‘shared’ parking facilities or a separate lot created for commuter parking? (Longobardi_126)
Response: Please see the responses to Comments 237 and 242. No commuter parking is proposed and thus will not be assessed in the DEIS analysis. As discussed in the Draft Scope, the Community Facilities and Utilities chapter of the DEIS will provide an assessment of utilities serving the Proposed Project.

Comments