Inmates recruited to clean station

09/30/2010 12:00 AM |

Inmates fan out to clean the railroad tracks in Riverhead Friday morning. Local elected leaders say the MTA has not been doing a good enough job in cleaning its station. The MTA said it cleans the Riverhead station weekly and cleans busier stations more often.

Inmates from the Suffolk County jail spent Friday morning cleaning outside the Riverhead train station, a job local officials say the Metropolitan Transit Authority should be doing more often.

Conditions at the train station — garbage strewn across the tracks and urine stains on the building and train platform — came to light when Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter attended an earlier press conference announcing a new train to coincide with juror schedules.

“I was embarrassed that the train station in my town looked like such a dump,” Mr. Walter said.

With the inmates working in the background, Mr. Walter, county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) and Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco held a press conference at the station Friday morning to call on the MTA to clean its own station.

“Right now, the county is being billed by the MTA for $25 million a year for station maintenance throughout Suffolk,” Mr. Romaine said. “We are obviously not getting $25 million in service.

“In past years, they were audited and found not to have provided the service. They are continuing not to provide the service, but they certainly are not late in providing us the bill.”

Mr. Romaine said he doesn’t know why the MTA charges the county to clean its own stations. “It’s just another one of those things,” he said.

“They just laid off about 200 maintenance people,” noted Sheriff DeMarco.

For their part, MTA officials said they do perform cleanup and maintenance work in Riverhead, though not as much as with busier stations.

“There are 41 Long Island Rail Road stations in Suffolk County, and the LIRR concentrates its limited cleaning resources on its busiest stations,” said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan. “Riverhead has an average weekday ridership of 52 customers. Compared with 17,278 at Ronkonkoma, for example.

“A station with this ridership level is provided with routine cleaning once a week, on Wednesdays at Riverhead, and heavy duty cleanings as needed, but not less than every three months.”

He also said the station underwent a more intense cleaning just last month.

“Our Quick Response Heavy Duty Team conducts more frequent cleanings based in part on events that may increase a station’s usage, and station conditions observed during weekly inspections,” Mr. Donovan said. “The most recent heavy duty cleaning at Riverhead took place on August 27.”

For local officials, that’s apparently not enough.

To supplement the county inmates’ cleanups, Mr. Walter said the town will try to have community service workers sentenced by Riverhead Justice Court clean the station as well.

The inmates are part of the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program, which uses volunteer inmates who are sentenced on misdemeanor charges for the work.

They do work inside the jail and outside, performing jobs ranging from carpentry to painting to landscaping, to name a few, the sheriff said.

“I think it’s a great program,” said an inmate who gave his name only as Chris. “Anything to get out of the jail.”

Chris is scheduled to be released from jail Thursday after serving time for a robbery conviction.

“It’s a first charge and hopefully the last,” he said.

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