June 24--The Long Island Rail Road's new president, criticized Monday by some MTA board members over his agency's handling of huge crowds delayed for hours after the Belmont Stakes, said the LIRR is already looking at ways to do better next time, including creating a police command center there.
Speaking at a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board's LIRR Committee in Manhattan, railroad president Patrick Nowakowski blamed capacity constraints at the Belmont Park Station for holding up thousands of riders leaving the June 7 race.
"The problem with any type of event like this is when you get to the departure and everybody wants to leave at the same time," Nowakowski said. "Because it was a single track, you couldn't move a train in and a train out at the same time . . . You had to wait for a train to leave to bring a train in. And that's very time-consuming."
Despite Nowakowski's explanation, MTA board member Jonathan Ballan said he believed the LIRR's planning was "inadequate."
"What you've described and what I've read about is unacceptable," Ballan said.
Nowakowski said the LIRR transported a record 36,000 customers to the Belmont Stakes, where California Chrome failed in his bid to capture the Triple Crown.
Nowakowski said the LIRR, working with the New York Racing Association, is already considering several ways to improve the LIRR's Belmont Stakes operation. They include creating a new command center for police and reviewing the railroad's century-old agreement with NYRA to clarify each agency's responsibilities.
Nowakowski said the railroad was also examining new ways for trains to access the station and how to improve communications with customers.
"Our ability to communicate is nonexistent. It's bullhorns and people yelling," Nowakowski said.
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