LIRR strike could cost New York State $50m in lost revenue
A planned strike by Long Island Rail Road workers might cost region as much as $50 million in daily economic activity.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released the figure on Tuesday, five days before unionized LIRR employees are expected to picket on July 20 after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rebuffed their counter proposal for a new contract.
DiNapoli urged both workers and management to come to an agreement to prevent more headaches to a region still recovering from Superstorm Sandy and during peak tourism season.
“Both sides must go the extra mile to reach a reasonable settlement so we can avoid the costly impact of a strike and the millions of dollars in lost economic activity,” DiNapoli wrote in a statement.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, hesitated to sound the alarms and echoed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s confidence in the MTA’s contingency plans for temporary bus and ferry services.
“We’ve had strikes before, and we survived,” Cuomo told reporters at an unrelated press event. “And we’ve had disasters and we know what that’s like. This is not a disaster — a real pain, maybe, but not a disaster.”
There are no new meetings between the MTA and LIRR scheduled as of Tuesday, and representatives from both publicly accused the other side of intransigence.
Marina Van, director of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Cuomo. Van said she joined the local group in 1994 — the same year that the unions last went on strike.
“It only lasted a weekend,” Van said, adding that the Hamptons in particular wouldn’t necessarily be affected so much by the lack of trains buy more so by a possible rush of cars through the town.
The LIRR station at East Hampton is more than an hour drive away from the nearest planned shuttle bus service at the station in Ronkonkoma, New York.
The increased traffic may dissuade some day trippers from stopping by the Hamptons, but Van said she’s already heard of some vacationers opting to extend their trips to the area in anticipation of the strike.
“Even de Blasio is not changing his vacation plans,” she said. “I think we’re going to be fine here.”
MTA’s offer in detail
Without any new scheduled negotiators, the MTA announced it would again blitz newspapers and airwaves with an update on the labor talks. In an open letter to customers, Prendergast released details of its current offer to the eight unions.
The offer to current LIRR employees would include: 17 percent wage increase over seven years, an average $22,000 retroactive payment, healthcare contributions of 2 percent of base salary and no changes to work rules or pension contributions.
New LIRR employees would need to contribute to their pensions, an additional 4 percent to healthcare costs and stay on the job longer to be eligible for top pay.
Union leaders continue to refuse the offer and have asked the MTA to adopt agreements drafted by two presidential emergency boards.
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria