Pols slam Kathy Hochul for commuter mess after Grand Central Madison opening

ALBANY – Long Island pols vented their rage Friday over what they called an “absolutely rushed” rollout by Gov. Kathy Hochul of the Grand Central Madison rail hub – causing mayhem for suburban commuters all week long.

Hochul, meanwhile, asked about the Jamaica LIRR hub commuters being forced to make a mad dash to far away platforms for connections — and endure commutes that are as much as an hour longer to get into the city — largely blew off the concerns in a call for patience.

“If the public is willing to give us some time to make the necessary adjustments, we’ll get it right,” Hochul answered The Post at an unrelated Albany press conference.

Adding to the tone-deaf response to the working men and women’s pleas for help, Hochul added, “MTA leadership has been literally on the ground” evaluating the collateral damage done by shifting trains to the $11.6 billion station, long delayed under predecessors like disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which she opened to much fanfare in late January.

Grand Central Madison provides Long Islanders with a direct route to the East Side of Manhattan – but for commuters not working in midtown it’s become a “Hunger Games” situation of crowded trains, missed connections, and longer rides because service got diverted from other hubs.

“As usual, the photo ops of officials riding into the shiny new stations go off without a hitch while the actual daily riders must be patient,” Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Garden City) lamented Friday in response to Hochul.

Hochul with arms held high stepping off an LIRR train onto a platform
Gov. Kathy Hochul has celebrated the opening of a direct LIRR route to the East Side of Manhattan while downplaying Long Islanders’ frustrations with disrupted commutes.
Newsday via Getty Images

Kevin Thomas at a hearing with a dark suit and extended arm with blurry people in background
State Senate Consumer Protection Committee Chair Kevin Thomas, a Democrat, said Friday the “buck stops” with Hochul when it comes to resolving commuting issues.

A bit more time spent on figuring out how best to balance the limited resources of the LIRR might have saved the newly-elected governor some serious political grief.

Some LIRR tracks can only use diesel locomotives while others are fully electric, further complicating efforts to weave Grand Central Madison into the web of existing routes.

“This mayhem shows that the opening was absolutely rushed,” Assemblyman Jarrett Gandolfo (R-Patchhogue), one of many pols who say they have been flooded by constituent complaints on the matter.

“It’s frustrating that for years, LIRR riders have seen fares rise while the service experience never improved. Now the governor wants to increase taxes on Long Islanders to get them out of financial trouble yet against. It’s not exactly fair,” Gandolfo added in reference to Hochul’s controversial budget proposal to increase the payroll mobility tax.

Monica Martinez standing with a suburban scene in background.
Democratic State Sen. Monica Martinez says the MTA hardly deserves a bail out when it fails to deliver a good experience for its customers.

And it was not like the MTA, which includes the LIRR, did not have plenty of time to consider how best to balance existing trains once Grand Central Madison gave LIRR riders another direct route into Manhattan beyond Penn Station, pols say.

“They’ve had probably close to 20 years to figure out the transition for East Side Access,” state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Nassau) while referring to the long-awaited opening of a direct rail link between Long Island suburbs and Grand Central Station. “There’s absolutely so accountability – and the buck stops with the governor.”

Jarett Gandolfo sitting at a legislative hearing in a wood paneled room with people in background
Republican Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo is among the Long Island pols who say they are getting flooded by constituent complaints about the LIRR
Facebook/Jarett Gandolfo

A crowded train with people rushing onto a platform
One Nassau County official said the MTA likely has an approval rating as low as liar Rep. George Santos amid commuting disruptions and crowded trains.
Gregory P. Mango

Hochul said Friday she does not think the MTA or her administration rushed the opening of the station despite hiccups that have included the breakdown of key escalators the day after its Jan. 25 opening.

She also argued that Grand Central Madison was still serving the greater good despite the cascade of complaints from commuters about the station where the sheer depth below street level adds even more time for people getting to work.

“I’ve heard from many people. I was on Long Island yesterday. They’re thanking me for this opportunity to get to the East Side without having to go all the way over to the West Side and backtrack. So it depends who you ask. But there’re a lot more people that are happy that they have this opportunity,” she insisted.

Ed Ra in a suit with glasses speaking in the Assembly chambers while standing with blurry people in background
Republican Assemblyman Ed Ra lamented how Hochul celebrated the opening of Grand Central Madison while commuters have to deal with the daily grind of the problems the $11 billion hub created across the LIRR system
Facebook/Assemblyman Ed Ra

But fellow Democrats say they, like their colleagues across the aisle, are getting dozens of angry calls and emails each from constituents about their disrupted trips into the five boroughs.

And pols say the governor’s push for more funding for the MTA in the state budget due April 1 is hardly well-timed given the ongoing nightmare experienced by people in Nassau and Suffolk counties where Republicans have made big gains in recent elections.

“The MTA’s history of failing to meet customer expectations, combined with its repeated request for additional funding without addressing underlying service and operations issues, only reinforces the need for greater accountability and efficiency within its operations,” state Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Hauppauge) said.

A crowded train platform from above with empty tracks
Long Island commuters are experiencing a “Hunger Games” situation as they dash around crowded stations to make their connections.
Gregory P. Mango

State Senate Consumer Protection Chair Kevin Thomas (D-Garden City) told The Post his constituents are “suffering” amid the off-the-rails changes to their daily journeys via key hubs like Penn Station in Manhattan, Jamaica, Queens and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.

“The buck stops with the governor on any matter involving a state-controlled entity. And what we have here is they wanted to open up a new station, but they did not think of the consequences of, or they should have thought about the consequences of, changing the schedule,” he said.

The LIRR currently lacks a permanent leader amid ongoing controversy over inflated labor costs at the regional rail system – including $130 million in unnecessary spending on conductors and assistant conductors alone revealed by a recent Post probe.

Hochul said Friday her administration is “working” on finding someone to lead the LIRR long-term.

If things do not shape up fast, it could undermine Democrats’ hopes of ever regaining key congressional and state Senate swing district they lost in 2022 with Hochul at the top of the ticket in the closest gubernatorial election in a generation.

Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan suggested that liar Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau), who has told a long list of whoppers about his personal and professional background might even end up beating the MTA in a popularity contest unless Long Islanders see their commuters getting back on track soon.

“People are outraged and they are saying the same thing: How can this be so screwed up and who’s accountable?” Lafazan said. “The approval rating for the MTA and the LIRR is probably hovering right around George Santos’ approval rating.”