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U.S. Senator Gillibrand Secures $1 Million in Federal Funding for Forest Hills LIRR Station Upgrades

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Forest Hills LIRR Station (Photo: U.S. Congress, Queens Post)

March 18, 2022 By Christian Murray

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has told the Queens Post that she has secured $1 million in federal funding that will go toward the upgrade of the Forest Hills Long Island Rail Road station.

The funds, which were included as part of the historic bipartisan omnibus appropriations agreement, will go toward station repairs, including the replacement of the deteriorated platforms and the construction of elevators.

“Our public transportation system is the backbone of the region’s economy and is an important part of our outer boroughs’ infrastructure that is vital in getting Forest Hills residents around the city,” Gillibrand said.

“Upgrading New York City’s infrastructure has been a key focus of mine, and these funds will help improve not only service for residents who use this major Queens transit hub on a daily basis, but also the borough’s quality of life.”

The MTA announced last year that it plans to upgrade the station.

The plan includes the construction of elevators, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agency said it will also replace and extend the platforms.

The plan is currently in the preliminary design phase. Gillibrand said the state’s Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is being consulted on the designs, given the station’s distinctive architecture.

The upgrades answer the calls of local officials and community groups who have been urging the MTA to revamp the station for years.

Seven local legislators, alongside residents who formed the Burns Street Alliance, penned a letter to the agency in November calling for the installation of elevators and the extension of platforms.

They also asked the MTA to address the pigeon problem and water leaks inside the overpass at Continental Avenue, as well as litter around the station. They also want the loud noise and vibrations from the train to be mitigated.

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Larry Penner

Congress member Meng previously announced in June, 2021 that she secured an Federal Transit Administration earmark for $17 million to pay for capital improvements to the Forest Hills LIRR Station? Under the project for the Forest Hills LIRR station, $16,910,000 was suppose to address the repairs need, including the replacement of deteriorated platforms. The project would also provide those with disabilities full access to the station, making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. These accessibility improvements include new elevators and an extension of the platform length to 12 cars, along with other station upgrades. Now Senator Gillibrand announces that she has found $1 million more.

Did the MTA on behalf of the LIRR ever apply to FTA for the original $17 million? If so, what is the current status? Will they have to amend this grant to account for the additional $1 million? FTA is unable to approve any of these funds until the historic preservation SHPO process is completed. What is the status for SHPO approval?

Beyond both earmarks, the LIRR also has a robust $800 million Stations Rehabilitation program within the MTA’s $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan that could also pay for work at the Forest Hills LIRR Station.

Has LIRR President Catherine Renaldi provided a detailed budget, schedule and scope of work including completion of environmental and SHPO review approval, design, and engineering for these improvements to the Forest Hills LIRR Station? Residents, commuters, local elected officials and transit advocates need more details beyond press releases Congressmember Meng and Senator Gillibrand.

Larry Penner — transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).

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