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LIRR Commuters Sound Alarm On Frigid Conditions And Limited Heated Waiting Rooms

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Long Island Rail Road riders say they are noticing a big change this winter, and they don't like it.

Heated waiting rooms at stations are opening later and closing earlier, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.

Are riders out in the cold?

"Oh, it feels like zero with the wind. It's crazy cold. Ya gotta hide," Hicksville commuter Patrick Mulligan said.

But there are few places to hide due to station waiting rooms' limited hours. Many close by 2 p.m. on weekdays and don't open at all on weekends.

"It's severely cold, when there's snowing, there's raining, you look for shelter," said Miriam Jones of Babylon.

LIRR Council Chairman Gerard Bringmann says commuters want waiting rooms open for extended hours during the frigid winter months.

"I know there are concerns about vagrants sometimes going in there to find warmth or to sleep, but that should not be a problem in the late afternoons," Bringmann said.

Commuters' top complaint is people panhandling, experiencing mental illness, or homelessness at stations. The LIRR says incidents may cause MTA Police to briefly close waiting rooms, but added, "Whenever we experience periods of extremely cold weather, our practice is to keep the waiting rooms open for the duration, allowing our customers to get out of the elements."

"The Long Island Rail Road is doing a very good job, because you cannot supply all the heat for everybody at every station," Mineola commuter Charles Green said.

Still, the waiting rooms were open 24 hours during the last cold spell.

Riders told McLogan they were unaware.

On the main line, station houses like Mineola are being rebuilt, so temporary wooden protections and wind shelters are the only options.

"And you have people that usually stand in the waiting ... little shelter there, COVID!" Uniondale commuter Jay Stephen said.

Critics say the practice of closing most station rooms in the afternoon ignores the growing trend of people using public transportation outside the normal rush hours.

"Work night shift. It's even colder and we are standing out here for half hour or longer," said Brian Hamel of Queens.

"People can get sick. It's freezing outside. Please, do something," added Lia Flores of Mineola.

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