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Local News May 9, 2013  RSS feed

A STATION OF FRUSTRATION

M.V. Residents Still Fuming Over Train Woes
by Robert Pozarycki


Open container cars full of rotting household garbage, much like those pictured in this photo, regularly pass through the CSX rail line in Middle Village. Nearby residents not only have complained about early morning train activity on the line, but also noxious fumes and odors from the trash trains as they move through the area. Open container cars full of rotting household garbage, much like those pictured in this photo, regularly pass through the CSX rail line in Middle Village. Nearby residents not only have complained about early morning train activity on the line, but also noxious fumes and odors from the trash trains as they move through the area. Having taken a step toward resolving one common qualityof life issue related to freight rail traffic in Glendale and Middle Village, area residents and activists want local lawmakers and agencies to go even further in tackling other problems they face from daily train operations.

Recently, the state allocated funds to retrofit one of the diesel engines used at Glendale’s Fresh Pond Railyard to make the locomotive more fuel efficient, less noisy and reduce the amount of emissions. As previously reported, activists who have long sought such upgrades hailed the announcement as a victory, hoping that the plan was the first step toward improving the entire locomotive at the railyard, which is owned by MTA Long Island Rail Road but leased to, and operated by New York and Atlantic Railway.

However, the plan does not affect locomotives operated by CSX on its rail line which connects the Fresh Pond Railyard with the Hell Gate Bridge and runs through Middle Village. Residents of the neighborhood living near the line—particularly in the area of 69th Place and Juniper Boulevard South—voiced their frus- tration over early morning operations on the line, claiming it disrupts their sleep and exposes them to noxious fumes and emissions.

According to emails sent by one such resident—Anthony Pedalino— many of the trains roll through the area during overnight hours, some as early as 12:30 a.m. The noise produced by their activity, according to Pedalino, wakes him and his neighbors on a constant basis.

The section of the CSX line in Middle Village, activists stated, has been used as a transfer station between locomotives in the process of shipping deliveries—including container cars full of rotting household garbage—out of the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale. The transfer point, through a deal brokered by local elected officials and train operators over a year ago, was moved south from the intersection of Juniper Boulevard South and 69th Place closer to the intersection of 69th Street and Juniper Valley Road.

“We still have those trains sitting behind us,” said Ed Cataldo of Middle Village, noting that the problems of noise and air pollution experienced by nearby residents were relieved only briefly after the transfer point was relocated. In the months since, he noted, the train cars have become longer and longer.

“They added more cars,” he told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview. “We have more noise because the pulls are longer, we have more pollution because the trains are longer and we have more unsightly garbage behind our homes and schools.”

Pedalino and Cataldo have suggested in their emails that installing sound barriers along the CSX line— and mandating that all container cars with garbage be sealed with a solid lid—would be a potential solution to the quality of life problems they’ve been experiencing. They have publicly called on elected officials on every level of government—including State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley—to accomplish that goal, but charged that those legislators have been slow to respond to their request.

“I understand that this is a federal issue,” Cataldo said, referring to the Interstate Commerce Clause, which grants the federal government regulation power over all railroads in the U.S. “But why can’t we as a Queens delegation mandate that any shipments from Long Island be sealed as they go through the residential community?”

“I see no movement or response with regard to that,” Cataldo claimed, adding that “nobody’s given us any inclination as to how we’re going to get relief. It’s been six years and counting.”

“We’re not naive or stupid, and we need to know something is happening,” he added.

‘There’s no progress’

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, echoed those sentiments in talking with the Times Newsweekly about the situation.

“There’s no progress for the people living around” Middle Village, he said, adding that his group has yet to hear if CSX has any plans to upgrade the diesel fleet it operates on the line which runs through the neighborhood.

“It’s the noise, the coupling and uncoupling of trains. You’re having a railyard in your backyard,” Holden said. “And it’s also going to get much worse when the full brunt of the” city’s Solid Waste Management Plan—which includes the shipment of household waste out by rail—is fully implemented.

“That doesn’t bode well for Middle Village and the surrounding areas,” the civic president added. “But those people who live with this in their backyard, it’s affecting their quality of life in such a way that many of them are thinking of moving.”

Though Holden stated his belief that certain elected officials weren’t doing enough to help resolve these problems, he offered that state and city officials could still put pressure on federal agencies and railroad operators to address the concerns of the community.

“They need to put their heads together and come up with a plan that would address Middle Village’s concerns and Glendale’s concerns,” he added. “Let’s come up with a noise abatement plan and a pollution abatement program. ... This activity should not be in the backyards of these homes. I don’t understand why the elected officials couldn’t get it moved.”

“We want to move things by rail, but let’s come up with a plan that the neighborhood doesn’t have to bear the brunt of this,” Holden stated.

Time for a bigger plan

Mary Parisen, co-chair of Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES), noted in a phone interview with the Times Newsweekly that, while it is taking time, the state and local lawmakers are working to resolve quality of life problems related to freight rail traffic affecting Glendale and Middle Village. Even so, she stated, the state government in particular needs to go further and help formulate a comprehensive plan to not only address noise and air pollution but also upgrade trains and tracks.

“We have to try to get some sort of a sound study, some sort of a seismic study,” Parisen said, noting that her home—located close to the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale—shakes as heavy locomotives pass by. “The loads are heavier, the trains are longer and there has to be some sort of abatement.”

“We’ve been working with elected officials” on these issues, Parisen added, noting that she believes things are “going in the right direction” for CURES.

“But we have to get the state to take ownership and realize this is a problem,” she said. “We’re grateful for the progress we’ve made with regard to the grant to upgrade the locomotive [at the Fresh Pond Railyard], but there’s much more to do.”

For his part, Senator Addabbo told the Times Newsweekly that “there’s a lot of moving parts” with regard to the freight rail issues, but he is working to get the attention of state and federal agencies toward resolving them. He noted a representative of the state Department of Transportation was scheduled to make a site visit and discuss possible shortterm and long-term solutions to noise and air pollution from trains.

Additionally, Rep. Grace Meng visited the Fresh Pond Railyard in March and has been in consultation with Addabbo’s office about finding possible remedies, the senator added. He also pointed out that Sen. Charles Schumer has introduced legislation mandating that container cars filled with garbage be covered with a solid lid to prevent debris from flying out.

“This issue has been around for a while; it will be around for a little while longer as we look to see what we can do,” Addabbo told this paper.

Though some residents have been critical, the senator stated that he understands their frustration, adding that “if it were up to me and I had the magic wand, I’d make it go away.” He suggested that, even though the fight has been ongoing, a solution to the problems area residents face will not happen overnight.

“I would love to have done it yesterday,” the lawmaker said. “But we need to come up with something realistic to have it done as soon as possible.” He noted the issue is complex and any solid compromise will need to involve all three levels of government as well as the cooperation of railroad operators and businesses.

“It’s going to take some compromise,” Addabbo added. “Whatever it is, let’s fix it and address it. ... Most [constituents] know we’re working on this. We’re not ignoring it. We continue to do what we have to do.”