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Long Island rail strike may cost economy $50 million/day: N.Y. comptroller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A strike by workers at New York's Long Island Rail Road could cost $50 million a day in lost economic activity, a blow for a region still overcoming the effects of the recession and Superstorm Sandy, the state's top financial watchdog said on Tuesday.

Talks to avert a strike at Long Island Rail Road broke down on Monday and the unions representing workers at the country's largest commuter railroad said they were proceeding with plans to strike on Sunday, increasing the chances of rush hour chaos in one the country's most densely populated regions.

"A LIRR strike would cause headaches and financial hardships for riders and businesses," New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in statement. "Both sides must go the extra mile to reach a reasonable settlement so we can avoid the costly impact of a strike."

The LIRR serves 300,000 passengers each day, carrying commuters between Long Island and New York City as well as within Long Island itself. DiNapoli said the strike would be a "devastating blow" to the region.

The impact of the strike could go well beyond the city businesses that rely on the LIRR to ferry workers from Long Island's bedroom communities to Manhattan office buildings each day.

The strike would be hitting during peak tourism season, impacting tens of thousands of tourists who travel to tourist destinations on Long Island, such as the Hamptons, Fire Island and Long Beach, the comptroller said.

It could also hit smaller businesses in New York City, such as theaters, restaurants and retailers.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that operates the LIRR, has offered a 17 percent wage increase over seven years and would require future employees to pay higher contributions for medical insurance and pensions.

In the last proposal made public by the coalition of eight unions representing LIRR staff, workers asked for a wage hike of 17 percent over six years without such concessions from future employees.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy, editing by G Crosse)

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