By Alfonso A. Castillo
Two Long Island congressman say LIRR's reduced staffing levels on trains have compromised the agency's security.
Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) earlier this week sent letters to LIRR President Helena Williams expressing their concern about the recent reductions in personnel aboard trains.
"While I understand the MTA faces serious budget issues, I also know that threats to our mass transit systems remain high," King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote in his April 11 letter.
In his April 12 letter, Bishop wrote that "the safety and security of the commuting public and MTA employees must remain the highest of priorities."
The Long Island Rail Road last year laid off 36 assistant conductors. Some trains with as many as 12 cars are occasionally staffed with as few as two conductors, said Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union Local 645 -- LIRR's biggest labor group.
In a statement, LIRR spokesman Sam Zambuto said the "safety and security of our customers remains the MTA and LIRR's number one priority." Despite the layoffs, the LIRR has "continued to provide the same level of safety, security and service reliability that our customers have come to expect," he said.
"MTA police regularly conduct security assessments and we remain vigilant on all security matters," Zambuto added.
Simon said he was glad King and Bishop echoed his members' important message.
"Frontline employees are essential to the safety of the riding public," said Simon, whose union is currently without a contract and negotiating with LIRR management.
The United Transportation Union contributed $15,250 to Bishop's campaign committee between 2009 and 2010, and $6,000 to King, records show.