Is The LIRR Only For The Rich? – By George J. Marlin

The following appeared on Monday, August 9, 2021 on The Island Now’s website: 

Memo: To Nassau County Elected Officials

A recent New York Times Sunday editorial, “Is This Railroad for the Rich?” insinuated that the LIRR is maintained and operated to cater to wealthy commuters from gated communities like Garden City. And I’m curious what all of you make of it. But first, a little background.

My guess is the editorial was a reaction to criticism of The Times editorial writer Mara Gay’s comments about her “ghastly” Memorial Day experience on the island.

“I was on Long Island [Memorial Day] weekend and visiting a really dear friend, and I was really disturbed,” she said. “I saw, you know, dozens and dozens of pick-up trucks with expletives against Joe Biden on the backs of them, Trump flags, and in some cases dozens of American flags, which, you know, is also just disturbing because essentially the message was clear. It was: This is my country; this is not your country. I own this.”

The message is essentially clear? I think not. To infer that displaying a U.S. flag, particularly on a national holiday is racist, is by its very nature an absurd comment.

I have displayed a flag on a 14-foot pole since my family moved into our home 20 years ago. Our flag, waiving on our front lawn, has nothing to do with Trump or deep-seated racism. It is an expression of pride in being Americans.

And since Mara Gay’s remarks went viral on the internet, I have noticed that more of my neighbors, of all races and creeds, have been hoisting flags.

The Times editorial of June 27, 2021, took Mara Gay’s comments one step further. It accused the state and the MTA of “squandering its investment in the expansion of the commuter rail” to cater to owners of single-family homes in exclusive neighborhoods like Garden City.

The editorial’s implication is clear: single-family zoning laws are a relic of Long Island’s racist past and should be abolished to permit the construction of multi-family housing, particularly around railroad stations.

Several observations: First, the LIRR does not cater solely to the rich. In fact, the vast majority of commuters are working-class folks, such as first responders, civil servants, construction workers, clerical workers, etc.

This has been particularly true throughout the pandemic. Many white-collar employees, to this day, have been working from their homes, not commuting.

Second, ownership of single-family homes, particularly on Long Island, was encouraged and codified, not by racists, but by New Deal Progressives who authored the GI Bill of Rights that included FHA/VA home loans with no down payments.

In the name of “regional planning,” Federal Housing Administration social engineers designed requirements on lot size, house width and distance from adjacent homes that forced banks to lend on suburban single-family homes instead of older city 16-foot row houses.

I doubt if Mara Gay and her confreres on The Times editorial board are familiar with this history, hence their calls, in the name of social justice, for the state of New York to override local zoning laws to force the building of apartment buildings.

The Times argues, “The city’s suburbs, especially in underdeveloped Nassau County, need to build more too.” It goes on to insist that Albany override local zoning laws and “make it legal to build multi-family housing on land near transit stations currently occupied by single-family housing.”

“Democracy,” The Times concludes, “is no defense for the behavior of these local governments. There are no citizens of Garden City; its residents are New Yorkers.”

Nassau Elected Officials:

Do you agree with The Times’ claim that people who pay local taxes are not citizens of their municipalities and should have no say in governing policies?

Do you agree that our democratically elected local government officials are unfit to make decisions regarding zoning laws?

Do you agree that the MTA is squandering money to improve and expand the LIRR?

Do you agree that the LIRR is a mode of transportation exclusively for the “rich”?

Do you agree with The Times’ demand that the state override local zoning laws and impose the construction of apartment buildings?

Do you agree that single-family homes should be demolished to provide space for multi-family housing?

As a Nassau County taxpayer and a citizen of the Town of Hempstead, I would like to learn your views on the issues raised by The Times before casting my vote this fall.

I look forward to hearing your responses.

Explore posts in the same categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed, The Island Now

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