Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that a controversial Long Island Rail Road expansion project is no longer predicated on the agency’s acquiring homes in the long-sought third track’s path.The LIRR’s reversal came on the same day Cuomo joined the Long Island Association for an event announcing the formation of a broad coalition called “Right Track for Long Island” that is committed to seeing the project move forward.“You have one of the worst commutes in the country on Long Island, literally one of the worst in terms of hours and time,” said Cuomo, adding that the project would alleviate some of the railroad’s woes.To limit congestion, the LIRR has envisioned a 9.8-mile-long third track between Floral Park and Hicksville that would run along the current right of way.The controversial $1.5 billion expansion once hinged on the railroad acquiring at least 20 residential properties along the route, but that is no longer on the table, Cuomo said.The Right Track for Long Island Coalition includes a number of leading business organizations, labor unions, research institutions, environmental groups such as Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the commuter advocacy group, Long Island Railroad Commuter Council.The extension is part of a much more ambitious attempt to improve the railroad’s infrastructure. It also includes a review of seven of the busiest grade crossings in the region in order to eliminate potential collisions between trains and vehicles stuck at the crossings.Bill Corbett Sr., a Floral Park resident and staunch opponent of the proposal, said construction of a third track would create considerable disruptions for people living in the affected communities.“We’re really upset with the governor,” Corbett said, adding that construction will be “very unpleasant for a lot of people.”“The thought that this can be done without intruding on private property is absurd,” he added.But proponents of the project believe the supposed benefits are hard to ignore.“One track is always out; it seems like,” Cuomo said, adding that the third track would serve as a redundancy in the event another track goes off line.Map of the Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project. (Courtesy: Right Track for Long Island)The governor argued that the LIRR’s current two-track system limits how it can perform, especially during peak times, when the railroad has no choice but to run trains in a single direction between Floral Park and Hicksville. Adding a third track would uncork the bottleneck and reduce delays, according to the governor’s proposal.Former Greenport Mayor Dave Kapell, co-chair of the Right Track for Long Island coalition, said the railroad is long overdue for a major expansion.Begun in 1844, the original premise of the railroad was to create a connection between New York City and Boston, Kapell said, adding that the system today is running on the same two tracks built when Long Island’s population was only 50,000.The dual-track system is a hindrance to Long Island’s economic expansion, Kapell said.The proposal to expand the LIRR “is both exciting and critically needed for our communities,” he added.A Rauch Foundation study published in 2014, titled “The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the LIRR Third Track,” noted that the construction of a third track would create 14,000 jobs and generate $40 million in new sales tax revenue, $103 million in property tax gains and $5.6 billion in Gross Regional Product by 2035.But opposition remains on track.More than 100 local organizations and elected officials are opposed to the project, plus mayors of each village on the route that will potentially be impacted by the construction, Corbett said.“There’s been no demonstrated need for a third track,” he said. “We’ve proven that the reverse commute does not exist; the trains are now coming out half-full.“We don’t oppose the elimination of grade crossings,” he said. “We think that’s a good idea as long as it’s done with the cooperation of the individual communities and meets their needs.”Those looking toward the future say the expansion is critical to attracting young people to the Island.The railroad’s current two-rail system “prevents the transit-oriented economic and community development that the Coalition believes is essential if Long Island is to be competitive in a 21st-century economy and attractive to the young people we want to live and work here,” the Right Track for Long Island coalition wrote on its website, which was also launched on Tuesday.
‘IT’S MY TIME’: Amid unusual circumstances, Kiara Lewis is finally getting her chance to star for Syracuse
As Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman took the podium to begin the team’s media day on Oct. 11, 13 of his players stood off-camera to his right, unusual for a typical press conference.After Hillsman made an opening statement and answered two questions, a reporter asked him how SU will cope with losing Tiana Mangakahia, one of the top point guards in the nation over the last two seasons.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Not concerned at all,” Hillsman replied. “We have Kiara Lewis.”Immediately following Hillsman’s comment, Mangakahia reassuringly placed her hand on Lewis’ left shoulder. Lewis looked around nervously but remained stoic. For two seasons, Lewis has watched Mangakahia flourish into a Nancy Lieberman Award finalist — given to the nation’s top point guard. Lewis was forced to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA rules following her transfer from Ohio State, then came off the bench the following year. To many, replacing Mangakahia’s production seems unattainable. For Lewis, it’s the opportunity she’s been waiting for since arriving at Syracuse in 2017 and one more step toward her WNBA ambitions.“Many people think we can’t do it because we lost Tiana,” Lewis said. “It’s a good opportunity for the rest of us to step up. I’m excited for myself. I mean, it’s my time.”,Lewis, a Chicago, Illinois native, entered college as the No. 24 player in the 2016 class, according to the espnW 100. She took home the 2015-16 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year Award before heading to Ohio State, where she became the backup point guard behind reigning First Team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year Kelsey Mitchell.Once her bench role was established early in the season, Lewis realized Ohio State was a bad fit. Despite posting solid numbers for a freshman — Lewis played in all 35 games, made 15 starts and scored double-digit points 11 times — her reduced role compared to high school wasn’t enough for her. OSU head coach Kevin McGuff was supposed to “mentor” her, Lewis’ father Gary said, but they never developed a close relationship. By the end of the season, Lewis wanted to transfer. “That was her hardest year,” Gary said. “We didn’t really understand the process.”Lewis’ next decision needed to be right, or her dream of playing in the WNBA could be jeopardized. She considered DePaul, a Chicago school that her father preferred, and Syracuse. After reaching out to longtime friend and SU guard Gabrielle Cooper to learn more about the Orange’s culture and style of play, Lewis committed to Syracuse in May 2017.NCAA transfer rules meant Lewis had to sit out her first season, but “it wasn’t difficult,” she said. Lewis tore her ACL in her right knee twice, once in seventh and again in eighth grade, so she was accustomed to sitting out for extended periods of time. Lewis said her year off allowed her to adjust to a new living environment, new team and a new system that calls for 5:30 a.m. practices — more than two hours earlier than at OSU. “She fit in real well,” Gary said. “The whole atmosphere, the whole culture was totally different [from Ohio State].” The 2017-18 season also marked Mangakahia’s first with the Orange after she transferred from Hutchinson Community College. Mangakahia blossomed into a star while Lewis watched from the sidelines. Lewis’ future role was in question. She left OSU to be a starter but found herself in the same situation as freshman year — backing up an All-American.Lewis did not start a single game last season. She averaged 22.3 minutes and 8.4 points per game as the sixth woman, but Lewis wanted more. She knew the impact she could make but couldn’t get there because she wasn’t starting. Her performances started to deteriorate. Each day was harder than the last. Gary said his daughter called home every day. “It was a year wasted, and it was damaging to my family,” Gary said. “That year could have dictated what will happen as far as her professional career.”,After Lewis’ worst game of the season, an 0-of-4 shooting performance in a 65-55 loss to Georgia Tech on Jan. 20, Lewis called her father for help. Gary said that she needed bible study to “get her back on track.” Soon, the call included Lewis’ mother, Kadijat, uncle Bryant, and Gary’s longtime friend and pastor, Darren Johnson. During the call, Johnson read Proverbs 3:4-5:“Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man / Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”“She really needed some spiritual guidance,” Johnson said. “She had lost her zeal for the game. It had to be recaptured, that fire had to be remade.”The phone call marked a turning point in Lewis’ season. Her demeanor changed, and so did her performances. Lewis focused less on her limited role and more on her production. She played 24 minutes or more in 11 of SU’s 16 games after Georgia Tech, something she did just four times in the first 18 games of the year. Over that span, she posted five of her seven highest-scoring games of the season. The Orange were upset by South Dakota State, 75-64, in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Mangakahia’s presumed last game for Syracuse. Hillsman and many others thought she’d declare for the WNBA Draft, and he began preparing for the 2019-20 season with Lewis as the starter. Then, on April 1, Mangakahia announced she was staying. Again, Lewis would be the backup.“At that point, we already knew what the year was going to be,” Gary said. “So [I told her], ‘Kiki, what you’re going to do is go in there and fulfill your obligations. We have already accepted the fact that you’ve lost a year. That’s a fact. We’ve accepted the fact your opportunity to be considered a WNBA player is questionable.’”On July 1, Mangakahia revealed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. On Aug. 20, she announced she would miss the 2019-20 season but plans to return for the 2020-21 season for her final year of eligibility. Suddenly, Lewis would be the starting point guard.While the news didn’t alter Lewis’ preparation for the upcoming season, it changed her outlook, she said. Because of her reduced role throughout her college career and the national media’s perception of Syracuse without Mangakahia, Lewis said she “definitely has something to prove.”“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” Lewis said. “Each day I’m getting better at something, whether it’s being more of a leader or making sure I’m in the best shape I can be in.”,As a starter, Lewis will play alongside Cooper in the backcourt. The two have known each other since they were 11 years old when they played for the AAU club Mac Irvin Lady Fire in Chicago. At media day, the thought of sharing the court with Lewis brought a smile to Cooper’s face.Cooper said she knows Lewis’ game so well that she can predict what she will do on a certain possession. Based on where she is looking and her pace as she dribbles down the court, Cooper can tell where she is going to end up on the court and if she will pass or shoot. While outsiders might see Lewis as the Orange’s new ball handler, the team doesn’t consider Lewis a “new point guard,” sophomore Emily Engstler said. Lewis is in the position she always vied for. She never got it at Ohio State, and had to wait two years, nearly a third, at Syracuse. Her days off the bench are over.“She has to understand that now, it’s all about playing basketball,” Gary said.If she focuses on that and can replace some of Mangakahia’s production, Hillsman will be right — Syracuse shouldn’t be concerned at all.Banner photo by Corey Henry | Photo Editor Published on November 4, 2019 at 1:10 am Contact David: [email protected],Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. Comments