File photo: Denise Civiletti

The Long Island Railroad has shelved plans for track work on the Greenport branch that would have interrupted train service on Saturday, the first day of the Greenport Maritime Festival. The railroad had announced plans to run buses instead of trains between Ronkonkoma and Greenport, angering festival organizers and local officials concerned about traffic congestion on the North Fork during a historically high-volume weekend.

“The railroad will do the track work after Thanksgiving, recognizing the busy fall season on the East End,” an aide to State Senator Ken LaValle said this morning. The senator reached out to the Long Island representative on the MTA board, Mitch Pally, as well as to LIR president Patrick Nowakowski, LaValle aide Joanne Scalia said.

A spokesperson for the MTA confirmed the postponement. “We heard from our partners on the East End and wanted to be as responsive to the community as possible,” said MTA spokesperson Sarah Armaghan. “We determined that we are able to reschedule to a time after Thanksgiving when it will not conflict with any area events.”

Festival organizers and local officials yesterday learned of the railroad’s plans to run buses instead of trains between Ronkonkoma and Greenport and expressed astonishment at the decision. Maritime Festival weekend is the busiest weekend in an already-busy fall season that now regularly produces gridlock on the east-west roadways of the North Fork. Some officials called for the railroad to reconsider the plan.

“It’s good that the railroad is responsive to the local needs,” County Legislator Al Krupski said this morning. Krupski also spoke with the LIRR president this morning.

Greenport Village Mayor George Hubbard was pleased with the decision and expressed relief.

“It’s a very smart move on their part,” Hubbard said. “It shows the government can work together,” the mayor said. “Thank you to everybody that got involved to help.”

Hubbard said yesterday he didn’t know anything about the scheduled interruption in train service or the substitution of buses. He called the decision “very poor planning” on the part of the railroad. With road closures for the festival, the mayor noted, he wasn’t even sure where bus passengers would be able to disembark.

Hubbard and others yesterday spoke of the ongoing communication between officials and the railroad that have at least tentatively resulted in increased weekend train service to Greenport during the so-called off-season — when tourist traffic ramps up as visitors come to the North Fork to visit wineries, corn mazes and to pick apples and pumpkins.

The railroad’s responsiveness is “very encouraging,” Krupski said, noting “the millions of dollars local residents pay in MTA taxes.”


Editor’s note: This story was amended post-publication to reflect a comment by the MTA.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.