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Businesses Say Preparing For LIRR Strike Is Like Bracing For Storm

MELVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- With the threat of a Long Island Rail Road strike growing direr by the day, businesses have been forced to firm up alternate plans right along with commuters.

As CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the deadline for a strike is coming in just five days, and no new talks have been scheduled between LIRR workers' unions and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. If a strike goes ahead, Jim Aspromonti said "there is going to be pain" at his company, Marcum LLP Accountants and Advisors.

Aspromonti has been rescheduling meetings and shuffling commuting times at his national accounting firm, which has hundreds of employees on Long Island and in Manhattan. The firm has been planning as it would for an incoming storm.

"It's almost like there's a sort of a disaster or an emergency that we're dealing with," said Marcum human resources chief Andrew Botwin. "Fortunately, we have the benefit of a little bit of time to prepare, and to try to help people out."

The firm has been making room for city-based employees to work on Long Island and has been helping arrange carpools by mapping who lives where.

"People will get up earlier in the morning," Aspromonti said. "The clients are still going to be there. Business is still going to go on."

Even workers who don't rely on the LIRR have been bracing for a nightmarish commute in a crippling strike.

"We're going to focus on doing carpooling, and we're going to get together in small groups of three or four people," said John Sellitto, Marcum's director of assurance services.

"My normal, everyday commute is a mess, so this strike can just make it 10 times worse," said Marcum employee Donna Polito.

But while working from home may be an option at some businesses, such is not the case at hospitals.

At Winthrop University Hospital, steps from the Mineola train station, ride-share meetings are being held for its 7,400 health care workers.

"Fortunately, there's been enough preparation time, and we've been notified ahead of time, compared to something like Superstorm Sandy that we could not prepare for," said Chad Hoffman-Fragale of Winthrop University Hospital.

Still, workers across Long Island have been feeling the stress of the unknown.

"The more people I talk to, the more stressed out some people are," one man said.

And amid the uncertainty, one thing is for sure: An LIRR strike would cause financial hardship. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli estimated $50 million in lost economic activity each day.

The Long Island congressional delegation on Tuesday urged both sides to get back to the negotiating table, saying a compromise must be reached.

For information on the MTA's contingency plan, click here.

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