Judge Orders Village To Grant Permits To MTA

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It’s been a while since the Village of Garden City and the MTA have seen eye-to-eye over the replacement of the Denton Avenue bridge that is a part of the ongoing third track project. The Village of Garden City has allegedly blocked the bridge replacement by not granting the needed permits to the MTA, but now a Nassau County Supreme Court judge has stepped in.

“Here, the completion of the Denton Avenue Bridge Project, the last of eight bridge replacements needed for the $2.6 billion third track project is critical,” Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Helen Voutsinas wrote in the decision dated late last month. “Finally, as to a balancing of the equities, the court finds no harm expressed by the village, and in fact, the village stands to benefit from the Denton Avenue Bridge project.”

In the past, the village had sued the MTA regarding large electrical poles that went up along Merillon Avenue. The village lost and is now appealing after it was thrown out by a state Supreme Court judge back in July.

“There’s no question that this NIMBY action that we’re facing from Garden City is a problem,” Acting MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said in an MTA board meeting in late September. “They’re taking the whole project and they’re preventing us from completing this one bridge and it’s clearly retaliation that they lost the lawsuit. We got a one-sided decision in the MTA’s favor when they tried to stop us from putting up new steel resilient utility poles that wouldn’t fall down and stop the railroad every time there’s a storm. They lost and now they won’t give us a permit to do work, which is pretty routine, so we’re in court trying to deal with that.”

In a statement on the village’s website, Mayor Cosmo Veneziale said Garden City’s refusal to permit the demolition and reconstruction of the Denton Avenue bridge is completely unrelated to the MTA’s prior actions.

“Although it seeks to characterize its actions as nothing more than a reconstruction of the bridge, the work proposed by the MTA involves the complete redesign of the roadway and traffic patterns,” the mayor explained in part. “Pursuant to New York State Law, such a reconfiguration can only be conducted after the MTA has submitted and the village has reviewed and approved plans and specifications and conducted a public hearing. To date, the MTA has never filed such an application with the village nor pursued the process mandated by law.”

According to Veneziale, throughout the design and construction phases of the project, the MTA repeatedly misled local municipalities and residents affected, and ignored their obligations imposed by law.

“Although early on it recognized the substantial deleterious impacts that the expansion project would cause to the local environment, the MTA engaged in a superficial and illusory evaluation under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which left critical issues unexamined and unresolved,” he said. “Irresponsibly, essential decisions were left to the determination of its design-builder in order to expedite the project. While Garden City early on sought to engage with it in an effort to protect its residents and ensure that the project proceed on time, the MTA has consistently engaged in a blatant ‘bait and switch’ and ignored its promises and assurances to the village. Despite presenting design plans that provided for the placement of utility poles on the north side of the railroad right-of-way and entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which obligated the MTA to ‘recognize the preference’ of the village not to have utilities along the right-of-way, to provide for their burial, and to consult with the village prior to making a final determination, it utterly ignored these promises and obligations and proceeded without any outreach or discussion with the village.”

However in a later development on Dec. 10, the village’s board of trustees authorized the transfer of $100,000 to continue to engage the law firm of Berkman, Henoch, Peterson, Peddy & Fenchel, P.C. regarding litigation against the village in connection with its refusal to issue certain permits to the MTA and LIRR. Trustees also directed Special Counsel Joseph Macy to continue to take all necessary steps to perfect the appeal in the case of Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Long Island Rail Road Company v. Incorporated Village of Garden City as well as the case of the Incorporated Village of Garden City v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Long Island Rail Road Company, Long Island Power Authority, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc. and PSEG Long Island, LLC. The village instituted litigation against these parties in an effort to have the poles installed south of the railroad tracks near the Merillon Avenue train station removed.

The Temporary Restraining Order against Garden City was relieved by a higher Court Judge, allowing for the filing of papers on Dec. 15. The trustees have approved appeal of the prior judge’s ruling regarding the poles and the reconstruction of the Denton Avenue underpass.

The MTA has said that their mandated schedule of completing the third track project is December 2022.

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