MTA to Give Discounts to LIRR and Metro-North Users, but It May Not Be Enough for Some


Photo from the MTA



The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will provide a steeper discount to residents who use certain commuter rail tickets within the New York City area, according to an MTA press release

Since congestion pricing goes into effect June 30, residents who take the Long Island Railroad of Metro-North rail line within New York City can expect to pay 10 percent

less on their monthly commuter passes. This is in addition to the current 10 percent discount, totaling a 20 percent discount. 

The discount will hopefully relieve the cost burden of transportation for those who live in New York City but cannot commute without the LIRR or Metro-North. 

Congestion pricing means higher tolls for commuters who travel daily to Manhattan below 60th Street. The new toll system is meant to encourage public transportation use and reduce gridlock and pollution in the area. When pricing is fully implemented, small passenger cars will pay up to $15 with the E-Z pass and $22.50 without the E-Z pass. Similar programs exist in other major cities including Singapore, London, and San Diego, according to Smart Cities Dive.  

The program is not without critics. A petition from The Coalition in Opposition to Congestion Pricing said that the increased fare will not reduce car traffic and will instead put an undue burden on people who need a car to get to work in the city. The group also said that air quality surrounding the congestion pricing zone will decrease due to cars and trucks circumventing the area to avoid tolls. 

The MTA environmental impact study reported that air quality would worsen with congestion pricing since traffic between Long Island and Pennsylvania could drive through the Bronx to avoid the Manhattan tolls. 

Jack Nierenberg, vice president for the advocacy group Passenger United, said that while the discount is a good start by the MTA to relieve the burden of congestion pricing, it would not address the issues residents from disadvantaged communities experience with public transportation and congestion pricing. 

The MTA eliminated the Atlantic ticket in 2023, which cost five dollars for one way between Brooklyn and Southeast Queens. Frequent riders could include a $60 weekly pass with a free weekly Metro card. The pass was eliminated in exchange for the City Ticket, which has a peak-time cost of seven dollars and no subway connection. 

“Now, for the MTA to suggest that they’re going to implement a 10% discount for weekly and monthly city tickets without reinstating the free subway or bus transits that they should have kept, that’s ridiculous.”

Nierenberg also said that the potential increase in passengers would strain the current system since there will barely be an increase in service. He added that while other cities have successfully used congestion pricing to decrease traffic and pollution, those cities have also improved public transportation, citing that London added busses after starting congestion pricing to accommodate the increase in passengers. 

Riders can purchase monthly passes starting in July, one day after the implementation of congestion pricing. 

$21.3M in federal funds secured for Queens projects

Platform to be extended, elevators to be added at LIRR station in Forest Hills; largest project of the bunch

By Jessica Meditz

The Long Island Rail Road station in Forest Hills is the most expensive project of the bunch, with $7 million allocated. (Photo: Michael Perlman)

Just before Christmas, it was announced that over $21.3 million in federal funds were allocated for 15 critical projects across Queens.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), New York’s senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, secured the funds in the new 2023 government spending package that passed the House and Senate late last month, and has now been signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Meng obtained a total of $21,317,066 in federal money for the projects, all of which meet many urgent needs throughout Queens.

The largest portion of the funding will go toward upgrades for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station in Forest Hills – approximately $7 million.

Improvements to the station will include the installation of new elevators and the extension the platform length to accommodate more train cars.

Today, the Forest Hills LIRR station accommodates only six of the 12 train cars, meaning that when a train stops at that station, only the first six cars are able to open their doors. The planned extension will be able to accommodate all 12 cars.

Additionally, the implementation of elevators will make the Forest Hills LIRR station fully accessible, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

“The MTA is fully committed to make the entire system accessible, not just subways but the LIRR and Metro-North too,” MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo said in a statement. “With these new elevators spread throughout the subway system and across Long Island, a large number of riders with disabilities, customers with children in strollers and visitors with luggage will benefit from an easier way to access mass transit.”

An MTA spokesperson said that the station’s accessibility upgrades are still in the design phase, and that more information can be shared when there’s a timeline for construction.

The allocated federal funds will also benefit other Queens cornerstones, including Queens College, borough hospitals, local nonprofits and small businesses.

They include $2 million for The City of New York’s District 6 Open Restaurants Dining Kits, $2 million for the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council), over $1.4 million for Queens College’s Small Business Development Initiative,  $1 million for New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst for the renovation of its Infectious Diseases Clinic, $1 million for the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Legal Desk support program, $1 million for Long Island Jewish Forest Hills’ establishment of Robotic Assisted Orthopedic Surgery, $1 million for the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council), $1 million for Commonpoint Queens, $800,000 for LIFE Camp, Inc., $750,000 for 100 Suits for 100 Men, $750,000 for Churches United for Fair Housing, $750,000 for Queens College’s Colden Auditorium, $551,210 for DOROT (which serves older adults) and $250,000 La Jornada Food Pantry.

“As I’ve said, Queens deserves its fair share, and I’m thrilled to bring back more money for critical projects here in our borough,” Meng said in a statement.

“I am especially pleased that I was able to secure more than double the amount of what I obtained in last year’s government spending bill. I am always honored and proud to fight for Queens and I’ll never stop working to ensure that our communities have the resources they need. I thank the President for signing the new spending bill into law, and look forward to this more than $21.3 million benefiting our borough, and the neighborhoods I represent, for many years to come.”

The money that Meng secured is allocated under Congress’ Community Project Funding.

In last year’s government spending bill, Meng obtained nearly $10 million for projects throughout her district.     

LIRR issues

Dear Editor,
Besides the noise from work at the Bayside LIRR rail yard (“Another push to shut down work at Bayside Yard” – July 28), there are also ongoing problems at the Bayside Long Island Rail Road Station that impact several thousand dally riders.
I give the LIRR full credit for installation of new concrete ties and ballasts. This will insure a safer and more comfortable ride. They have also recently completed repairs to sections of the westbound platform edge.
However, there is still other significant outstanding maintenance and repair work to be done.
The original wooden support beams for various sections of the canopy have deteriorated. Pigeons have moved into the rotting bottom section of the westbound canopy stairs roof.
Other portions of the canopy roof are also in need of repair. The metal structure supporting the overpass connecting the east and westbound platforms has begun accumulating rust.
There is also a hole in one of the eastbound staircases.
Why does the LIRR allow these issues to grow even worse? When will the necessary repairs to these structural deficiencies be dealt with and completed?
Larry Penner
Great Neck

Another push to shut down work at Bayside yard

Bayside residents have had enough of a yard the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has been using as a “temporary” staging site for overnight construction work on the Port Washington line for the at least the past six years.
Neighbors of the rail yard say they are often woken up several times a night by the work and loud diesel engines pulling in and out of the yard.
In addition to the noise, residents contend the site is being used to store flammable chemicals and other potentially hazardous materials.
“This is not a safe situation for any of us, it’s beyond inappropriate,” said Karen Digiacomo, who lives next door to the yard on 217th Street just south of 40th Avenue. “All of this has been done with complete disregard for us. We have been more than patient.”
Digiacomo said if the LIRR fails to take action, her and her neighbors have discussed filing a class action lawsuit.
Stephen Panagiotakis moved to his house on 218th Street next to the yard one year ago with his wife and two small sons. The overnight noise is a nuisance, he said, but so are the trucks entering and leaving the site all day long.
“There are trucks barreling down 40th Avenue,” he said.
Tony Avella, the Democratic nominee for City Council, said when he was last in office as a state senator in 2018 he spoke with LIRR president Phillip Eng about the issue.
“Eng promised to reduce activity, but now it’s worse than ever,” Avella said at a rally with residents on Monday calling on the LIRR to end activity at the site.
Assemblyman Ed Braunstein said he also sent a letter to Eng and the LIRR about the issue in 2017, suggesting the agency find an alternative site for the staging work. He suggested moving the operation to Willets Point, a far-less residential area mostly surrounded by Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. He followed up again in 2019.
“The people in this neighborhood have been tortured by the Long Island Railroad for long enough,” Braunstein said earlier this week. “People do not deserve to live like this.”
Representatives from the MTA and LIRR did not respond to requests for comment.
While the LIRR has been unresponsive in the past, Avella said this time around they might have an ace up their sleeve. On Sunday night, Avella said Senator Chuck Schumer called to congratulate him on his primary win, and asked if there was anything Schumer could help with.
Avella mentioned the issues at the Bayside yard, and Schumer said he would reach out to LIRR officials to discuss the matter. Avella said Schumer’s help is important because many train operations are overseen by federal agencies.
“Having the senate majority leader on your side is a big deal,” Avella said.

Farmers market brings fresh food to Laurelton

For years, Dianna Rose walked by the parking lot of the LIRR station in Laurelton and wondered why there was never a farmers market in the space. In her mind’s eye, Rose saw beautiful white tents filled with vendors selling flowers, produce, and everything in between.
Last year, that vision became a reality when Rose launched the Laurelton Farmers Market, the first Black-run farmers market in Southeast Queens. Now in its second year, the market brings flowers, food, and community to the residential neighborhood.
“Our mission statement is to cultivate community and to be a place where community grows,” Rose explained in an interview this past week. “The Laurelton Farmers market was cultivated because of our community and the lack of access to farm fresh produce and homemade small batch products.
“I love a good farmers market, and I just didn’t understand why Laurleton didn’t have one,” she added.
Rose had the idea to call the railroad directly to see if they would support her dream. She was put in contact with various different departments before finally connecting with someone who supported the idea. The LIRR became an official partner to the project and continues to help it develop.
Simultaneously, Rose worked to pitch the idea to her community by posting about it in The BlaQue Resource Network Facebook Group.
“I said ‘hey, who would like to see a farmers market in Laurelton’ and the response was amazing,” said Rose. “We knew it was gonna be a success. The community had already seen the vision.”
Despite the widespread support, the Laurelton Farmers Market’s inaugural season was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest hurdle we had last year was getting farmers to come to the market,” Rose explained. “Many farmers were already booked at markets or didn’t have the capacity to support additional markets. This year we are proud to say we don’t have that issue.”
The market launched its second season on May 15 with a wide selection of produce, seafood, flowers, meat from an on-site butcher, and handicrafts from various artisans.
“Now people are coming and seeing what they expect,” said Rose. “It has been such a beautiful response and people keep coming back.”
The Laurelton Farmers Market has also found support from many of Queens’ elected officials. Rose thanked State Senator Leroy Comrie for being particularly supportive of the market and for helping to secure the LIRR partnership.
Borough President Donovan Richards and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz are also both supporters and frequent visitors of the market as well.
Rose is confident that the market will help support the local community and business. She is particularly excited by the market’s partnership with Ernest Foods, the first Black-owned organic supermarket in Jamaica.
Ernest Foods is set to open its brick-and-mortar location this summer and has already begun selling produce at the Laurelton market.
Rose also has plans to open two new markets throughout Queens this summer. A market in St. Albans is set to open in June followed by a Queens Village market in July. The new locations will also be in the parking lots of LIRR stations thanks to the partnership.
After the success of the Laurelton Farmers Market, Rose is hopeful that more people will be inspired to take on similar endeavors.
“I’ve had maybe ten people call me since launching the farmers market last year, whether it’s a community group or an individual, who say that they always wanted to do a farmers market. People are unsure and don’t know where to start, so it helps to see that it’s been done before. It’s motivating.”
The Laurelton Farmers Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Laurelton LIRR station. Interested vendors can apply at

More information about the market is available on Instagram (@sovereignmarkets) and Facebook (@laureltonfarmersmarket).

Station neglect

Dear Editor,
There are ongoing problems at the Bayside Long Island Rail Road Station that impact several thousand dally riders.
I give the LIRR credit for installation of new concrete ties and ballast that will insure a safer and more comfortable ride. They have also recently completed repairs to sections of the westbound platform edge, but there is still other significant outstanding maintenance and repair work to be done.
The original wooden support beams for various sections of the canopy have deteriorated, and pigeons have moved into the rotting bottom section of the westbound canopy stairs roof.
Other portions of the canopy roof are also in need of repair. Pigeons droppings can be seen at the bottom of the westbound stairs and second set of stairs for the eastbound platform.
The metal structure supporting the overpass connecting the east and westbound platforms is accumulating rust. There is also a hole in one of the eastbound steel staircases.
Pigeons have also found a second home in the hole on the roof over the ticket office facing the platform.
Why has the LIRR waited so long to allow these issues to grow even worse?
Larry Penner
Great Neck

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