LIRR will operate trains for jurors

04/22/2010 12:00 AM |

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has agreed to adjust the Long Island Rail Road train schedule to Riverhead so potential jurors can arrive in town in time for jury duty.

The decision was announced Friday during a meeting at Riverhead Town Hall attended by county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), state Assemblyman Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham), Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and other East End officials.

An eastbound train will arrive in Riverhead at 8:55 a.m. weekdays and westbound train will leave the station at 1:22 and 3:58 p.m., Mr. Romaine said Friday, though it was not immediately clear when the new train schedule will begin — or if those times were set in stone.

Mr. Romaine, whose district spans the North Fork and eastern Brookhaven Town, said he was very pleased with the agreement.

“This is something I’ve advocated for since I became a county legislator,” he said.

Suffolk County Commissioner of Jurors Michael O’Donohoe said his office has been lobbying for about three years for a train schedule that would allow jurors to take public transportation.

“We’re really thrilled with the new LIRR schedule,” he said, adding that a train schedule will now likely be included in juror mailings.

Mr. O’Donohoe said that jurors summoned to Supreme Court on Griffing Avenue can walk to the building from the station, while there will most likely be a connecting shuttle for those called to serve at the criminal court on Center Drive in Riverside.

The commissioner noted that parking is sparse in downtown Riverhead and the court district to the north, but that the new train schedule should alleviate any problems.

Earlier this year, the MTA proposed eliminating most all train service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport in a move that was intended to help close a $400 million budget shortfall. Last month, after resistance from residents and public officials, the MTA decided last to keep the line running.

The MTA was also criticized for considering the changes just months after Albany approved a mandatory .34 percent payroll tax on all employers in New York City and surrounding counties, including Suffolk. East Enders complained that they were being forced to subsidize New York City commuters while receiving paltry service from the MTA.

LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said the MTA has since been investigating ways to increase ridership on the sparsely used Greenport line.

“We’re trying to work together to increase ridership,” he said of the agency’s ongoing communication with Suffolk officials.

Mr. Calderone could not give specifics on train times across the line or when the new schedule will launch.

“We’re ironing out the details,” he said.

Commuters arriving in Riverhead would also likely bring more foot traffic to the downtown area, another reason Mr. Romaine and others had been championing the move.

Stephen Wirth, owner of Digger O’Dell’s on West Main Street, said anything that brings people downtown without closing the roads is a good thing.

“That sounds great to me,” Mr. Wirth said.

He described the court system as the “lifeline” of business for downtown restaurants at lunchtime, when half his patrons are lawyers, jurors and court workers.

Mr. Romaine said he also suggested running extra trains during the Riverhead Polish and Country fairs and during pumpkin-picking season on the North Fork. Mr. Calderone said that those suggestions could be implemented in the future.

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