New LIRR president takes commuter complaints, questions amid morning delays

PENN STATION – The new President of the Long Island Railroad spent his second day on the job meeting and greeting riders.

Phillip Eng, 56, took questions and complaints at the Mineola station Tuesday morning and spent the evening rush at Penn Station.

“Communication was the top foremost most important thing they felt that’s been lacking,” Eng said.

Eng took over the nation’s busiest commuter railroad with 89 million riders. Patrick Nowakowski stepped down after four years and Eng becomes the railroad’s 40th president.

He joined the MTA in 2017 as chief operating officer and was acting president of New York City Transit from October to January last year.

Eng has a lot of work ahead of him. The LIRR has been plagued by aging infrastructure as well as service and communication problems – 2017 was its worst year in almost two decades in terms of on-time performance.

“We need to tackle our maintenance and corrective repairs and we need to catch up on anything that’s backlogged,” Eng said. “We need to make the system more reliable so our customers can get to where they need to on time.”

The lifetime Long Islander says he will bring his own approach to the job - with his 35 years as a career engineer and transportation manager, as well as the approach of someone who’s been riding the LIRR his entire life.

“It actually allows me to understand what they’re going through,” Eng said. “I’m hearing it, but I’m also living it. It’s important for me to be able to relate to that, the only we can do better is to be listening and when we listen, we need to take action.”

Eng is the son of Chinese immigrants. He is a married father of for, and hails from Smithtown, Long Island. He is a Cooper Union graduate and becomes the first Asian-American and minority to hold the top job at the LIRR.

He continues his listening tour Wednesday in Ronkonkoma for the morning commute and at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn for the evening commute.