As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepares for a possible strike by Long Island Rail Road workers this weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo is offering some input for both parties but does not appear ready to intervene.
The last time the LIRR went on strike in 1994, it was the governor's father, then Governor Mario Cuomo, who had to deal with a two-day strike on the country's busiest railroad.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the governor emphasized the need for a fair resolution.
"My advice is what every New Yorker wants, and the advice every New Yorker would give. Both parties should be fair, right? We want a fair resolution, fair for the union, but also fair for the MTA. Remember, the MTA doesn't have any money except for what the taxpayers and the riders give to the MTA," Cuomo said.
The governor went on to say the 300,000 riders that would be affected by a strike will be all right.
"We've had strikes before, right? And we survived. And we've had disasters and we know what that's like. Hurricane Sandy was a disaster, we've gone through other disasters. This is not a disaster. A real pain, maybe but not a disaster," Cuomo said.
Workers could walk off the job as early as 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
In an open letter on the MTA website, Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast is warning riders to pay attention.
He also spells out the agency's latest offer to the unions, one in which workers would get 17 percent pay increases over seven years and put two percent of base salaries toward healthcare.
The unions want it to be six years and have offered a much smaller contribution.
Right now, the unions say no talks are scheduled with the MTA.
They also have not yet commented on Prendergast's letter to riders, which hints that the cost of meeting the unions' demands might have to be passed on to riders.
In the letter, Prendergast says, "The MTA remains committed to settling this matter quickly, but any new agreement must be affordable not just today, but into the future, without jeopardizing the investments necessary to maintain the service we provide our riders or placing additional pressure on future fares. A strike would have a devastating impact. It's time to have productive negotiations to resolve our differences and return to what we all do best together—serving our LIRR customers."
The unions say the agency refused their counteroffer and is "provoking a strike."
Union reps say their members have little choice but to walk out.
"The MTA has not come with a counteroffer at all and is not moving. So, at this point, the unions are heading east and prepare their membership and their families for the unfortunate possibility of a strike," United Transportation Union General Chairman Anthony Simon told reporters Monday.
The MTA is making a full court press for its side, releasing print and radio ads saying the union is making unreasonable demands, with the tag line, "When is enough enough?"
Contingency plans are being worked out in the event of a strike.
They include shuttle bus and ferry services, as well as park and ride lots at Citi Field and Aqueduct Racetrack.
The MTA says it is better prepared than it was during the last Long Island Rail Road strike in '94.
As one could imagine, Long Island Rail Road riders are dreading the idea of a strike.
Among the many who will feel the pain of a strike will be commuters in Southeast Queens, where there are no subways.
People living there will find themselves forced to either take an express bus, or drive to the nearest subway station and find parking, including members of NY1's own staff.
"Without the LIRR it would be a very long commute I'd usually end up finding my way to Jamaica catching the E pretty much from the beginning 'til almost the end that's definitely over an hour," said NY1 Executive Assistant Jackie Douglas. "Maybe even more than that because that's not considering the 15 minute drive."
Commuters at Penn Station say a strike will affect their bottom lines as well, and hope a solution is reached.
"A lot of people are going to lose their jobs man. That's everybody's livelihood. They have to make it to work," said one LIRR commuter.
"I have a two hour commute. I have to get somewhere to work in New Jersey actually. I gotta transfer here to the PATH. So I have to get to Penn Station somehow," said another LIRR commuter.
For the latest updates on the Long Island Rail Road contract talks and travel alternatives in the event of strike, visit mta.info.
LIRR Riders Bracing For a Strike
TWC News: Cuomo Keeps Distance as MTA, Commuters Prepare For Possible LIRR Strike
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With a strike looking much more likely, NY1's Rocco Vertuccio rode into Manhattan with a fellow station employee who's bracing for big delays.