Op-ed | Long Island Rail Road desperately needs federal support

Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng.
Photo courtesy of the MTA


It is fair to say that there’s no Long Island without the Long Island Rail Road.

It’s no secret that we keep Long Island moving – and not just to the world-class beaches. We moved – and continue to move – the frontline workers of this pandemic that helped New York weather some of our darkest days.

But federal government inaction – in failing to allocate $12 billion in emergency funds to the MTA — is showing New Yorkers that our economic viability doesn’t matter. Making matters worse, they’ve now crossed a line no government agency should cross when we all serve the public: FEMA is set to cut critical funding that helps keep our system clean and disinfected amid this ongoing global pandemic. 

Denying help is one thing. But it’s unconscionable to take steps that intentionally hurt the public.

It’s because of the leadership of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and the heroic efforts of the frontline workers, including the LIRR and entire MTA workforce, and the public for doing their part in staying home and wearing masks, that New York crushed the curve.

We’ve been doing our part: cleaning and disinfecting our trains and stations at a rate and level never before seen in our history. We’ve set up hand sanitizer dispensers as our ambassadors hand out free masks at stations. We have one of the most robust public health campaigns currently out there. We’re keeping up these efforts in anticipation of a possible second wave. We need to be prepared. The latest cleaning funding cuts from the federal government put us all at risk.

New York is and will continue to be resilient. Because of all our efforts, I’m grateful now to see a slow and steady resurgence of the great state we call home. And I remain hopeful as we welcome customers back to our system.

We need to keep this momentum and we need to keep going. And we need to make sure our employees and customers remain safe. We know the value of public transportation in our densely populated corner of the world. It cannot be underestimated what commuter rail – that served more than 91 million trips last year – means to a metropolis like ours. And we wouldn’t be what the Governor rightly calls New York Tough without fighting for what’s right.

Washington: we need major federal funding. Now. Our future, New York’s future, and, quite frankly, the nation’s future, lies in the balance.

Phillip Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.