Middle Villagers continue to express health and quality-of-life concerns regarding the freight line activity taking place in the area.
“It’s bad enough we have the Long Island Expressway in our backyards,” said Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) president Robert Holden at the group’s monthly meeting on June 9. “It’s bad enough that we have all this traffic and diesel fuel from the locomotives.”
Freight rail lines run through areas of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale; operations are based out of Glendale’s Fresh Pond Rail Yard, which is operated by the New York and Atlantic Railway (NYA). Railway workers transfer cars of municipal waste and construction debris along tracks in Middle Village and Maspeth operated by national rail operator CSX, which picks up the cars for shipment out of the city.
“It is really ridiculous DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] did not put this in their plan to make railroads cover this waste,” Holden said. “Because what [train workers] do is they overload it, and it spills all over the tracks.”
Holden presented attendees with photos of the overloaded freight cars, as well as images of one railroad worker doing the assigned job of exiting the locomotive and directing traffic himself.
“There’s a guy that jumps off the locomotive, and he runs ahead to the railroad crossing, and he puts out his hand to stop traffic,” Holden said. “This is happening every day.”
Referencing the collision of a locomotive and tractor-trailer at a railroad crossing in Maspeth which occurred last summer and sparked a safety review by the Federal Railroad Administration, Holden cited this practice as another example of hazardous procedures conducted by NYA.
“New York and Atlantic, who contracts with the Long Island Rail Road, is not doing their job in protecting the crossing, nor protecting the people of this neighborhood,” Holden said. “They’re not good neighbors.”
Holden and members of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) recently attended a hearing by the DEC in Long Island City to voice their concerns and suggest an increase in regulations, including mandated closed-top cars and expanded safety measures at rail crossings.
“We’re going to fight,” concluded Holden. “This kind of thing just cannot happen in the 21st century.”