LI Congress members fight layoffs of LIRR signalmenBy DENISE M. BONILLA
August 17, 2010
Five Long Island members of Congress Monday issued a letter to the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asking to stop the layoffs of 25 signalmen on the LIRR.
The letter to MTA chairman Jay Walder was signed by Reps. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights), Peter King (R-Seaford), Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) and Timothy Bishop (D-Southampton).
The letter asks that "as a matter of public safety" the MTA not lay off or furlough the signalmen. The MTA announced earlier this year that 150 LIRR workers would lose their jobs as a result of service cuts and other measures taken to close a nearly $900 million deficit.
The letter mentions a July incident at a Bayport LIRR crossing where the gates failed to go down as an example of signal problems because of antiquated equipment. "Thankfully, the currently available signal employees are on hand to address these issues that if they were not on the job, could result in tragedy on the rails," it stated.
In a statement, the MTA said that with funding available for only the first two years of the current five-year capital plan, "We've had to prioritize critical projects and modify schedules, leading to the furlough of some of our employees." If the balance of the plan gets funded, the MTA stated, it will be able to bring back the employees. "While letting them go will be painful, safety remains our top priority and is in no way compromised by the furlough of these employees," the statement read.
Chris Natale, chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, said the MTA should devote more money to capital projects to correct existing problems. "There's still a lot of extremely dangerous stuff out there that we're addressing and they're going to lay these guys off and not do this work just to show that they saved money," he said. "Every dollar they save by not doing repairs, it'll cost them $2 down the line."