NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – $250,000 every three months, for years.
That's how much LIRR contractors can earn as extra incentives for a job well done.
That money however, is in the hands of the people who live near the controversial Third Track construction project.
The MTA is calling it a community scorecard, meant to motivate contractors to keep noise, debris, and disruptions to a minimum. The agency is asking residents like Parul Patel – affected by the LIRR's construction – to fill out the surveys.
"What kind of a grade are you giving them?" CBS2's Jennifer McLogan asked the New Hyde Park resident.
"Above average, I think," Patel replied.
The length of street closures can also affect the report card.
"What do you think this will mean to you for the next six months?" McLogan asked business owner Andy Akgul.
Same as today… slow business," Akgul said.
The LIRR will fine Third Track contractor 3TC for failures, but reward them for favorable reviews.
Dangling and rewarding $250,000 every few months for four years, that's millions of dollars, and a strategy some on Long Island disapprove of.
"Residents should be mad this is our taxpayer money going towards their version of 'let's please all these contractors with these sweet deals,'" State Sen. Kevin Thomas of Long island's 6th District said.
The MTA says the payoff is to make sure the construction affects homeowners' quality of life as little as possible. Finishing faster would also mean saving money and less overhead costs.
"We have incentivized the contractor and penalized them if they don't do what the community wants. That's what it's about. A carrot and a stick," MTA project executive Mark Roche explained.
"It's a new way of doing things, so we are watching it. We think it is the right idea. That the community is involved," Mark Epstein of the LIRR commuter council added.
"This isn't something in the bowels of Penn Station. This is in people's backyards."
Business experts say incentives are not bribes and statistics show monetary rewards are effective however, some think the process should have been spelled out before construction started.
"The MTA should have approached it differently at the beginning. It should have been baked into the contract," Adelphi University professor Mark Fogel argued.
The report cards are issued in three-month cycles. Contractors could earn up to $4 million in incentives over the four-year span.
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