Pereira slams Newsday article on Wilson Park, 3rd Track community benefit fund: says publication has ‘agenda' against village

Pereira slams Newsday article on Wilson Park, 3rd Track community benefit fund: says publication has ‘agenda' against village
Mineola Mayor Paul Pereira. (Photo courtesy of the New Line Party)

Mineola Mayor Paul Pereira said Newsday incorrectly implied the community benefits fund from a now-completed, years-long Third Track project in a story published Sunday was a bribe for village board support.

Pereira also said Newsday misrepresented his long-time support of the project.

The 3rd Track had a $2.5 billion budget and the MTA set aside $20 million for a community benefits fund.

The Newsday story said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority paid $1.7 million for Wilson Park upgrades in Mineola as part of a community benefits fund included in the 3rd track project. Pereira confirmed this number to Alb Media.

The turfing of the Wilson Park field is just one village project that has been paid for by the MTA community benefit fund. The MTA also funded a pickleball court in Floral Park and a roughly $9,000 “Welcome to Garden City Park” sign.

The Newsday article  said the Wilson Park project is “among several expenditures paid for from a Community Benefits Fund that seemingly had little connection to the Third Track project.”

But Pereira said that is exactly the point: The community benefits fund does not have to be related to the 3rd Track project.

“It’s called community benefit fund. Turfing a field benefits the community,” Pereira told Alb Media. “I didn’t make the rules. I didn’t make the funds. I did not even know about the existence of the fund when we first began discussions about supporting the 3rd Track with then Gov. Cuomo.”

Pereira did note that Wilson Park is only 1,000 feet from the Third Track.

He added that while $1.7 million went toward the Wilson Park turf, about half of the funding Mineola received went directly toward projects related to the train station.

These projects include new train benches, solar-powered parking meters, LED lighting, parking garages, a sweeper truck for parking garages including the garage at the train station, a Jet-Vac truck to mitigate flooding and sewage issues.

The Newsday article cites an opinion from Ken Girardin, director of research for the Empire Center for Public Policy, who called the MTA funding of projects unrelated to the 3rd Track “disconcerting” and said “getting a 3rd Track should have been the benefit.”

Pereira disagreed. He said Mineola does not benefit from the 3rd Track because the trains running on that track do not make a stop in Mineola.

“In other words, we put up with all the problems, all the disruption, all the chaos, for years, our residents, and the benefit really is to … Smithtown and Huntington and Port Jefferson and these places further east,” said Pereira. “So this is the MTA’s way of saying, ‘Hey, we know that you bore the brunt of this disruption and we would like to somehow make up for that.’”

But Pereira’s biggest gripe with Newsday’s “agenda” is the implication that he did not support the 3rd Track project until the community benefit fund was involved.

The Newsday article said “Mineola Mayor Paul Pereira, who previously criticized the MTA’s construction in his village, defended the Wilson Park upgrades.”

Pereira said he has never opposed the 3rd Track during his tenure as mayor.

Pereira said he believes what Newsday might be referring to is a statement he made to the village in October 2022.

The statement came shortly after Gov. Kathy Hochul held a press conference at the Westbury Train Station on Oct. 3, 2022 announcing the completion of the Third Track – about a year before construction on the track was actually completed, according to Pereira.

In the statement, Pereira said it was campaign season, which he assumed was the reason for Hochul’s press conference, but that it was “a slap in the face to residents who have had to put up with the mess and inconvenience of all of the construction.”

“I didn’t criticize the project. I criticized the fact that [Gov. Hochul] said the project is done when my residents can clearly see that it wasn’t done,” said Pereira. “[Newsday], you, nobody will ever find a quote from me opposing the project.”

When the MTA first tried to build a third track in the early 2000s, the Mineola board of trustees opposed the project because the original proposal included many eminent domain acquisitions, said Pereira.

But he was not yet on the board at the time.

“If there’s a problem with the community benefits program, take it up with the MTA. We played by the rules. We submitted these things for approval. They were approved,” said Pereira. “And for me, I think the residents of the village of Mineola have no problem with it.”

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