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Sticky mess from above

Some residents in Richmond Hill think the sky is falling.
That’s because they say that when they walk or park underneath the elevated J line, particularly along Jamaica Avenue, a chemical called creosote drips down - especially in the summer heat.
“Whatever it’s called falls from the tracks and it damages the paint on the cars,” said Dharam Singh, 55, owner of Shiva Universal Beverage, Inc. located on Jamaica Avenue. “I recently tried to remove it (the creosote) and it left a mark on my car. I had to get it repainted and it cost me $500.”
Singh said he had called 3-1-1 to find out if the city would pay to repair his damaged 1999 Red BMW, but they offered no help and were not aware of the problem.
The Richmond Hill Block Association (RHBA) has been in contact with representatives of the MTA New York City Transit in order to make them aware of the creosote droppings, as well as other problems with the J line, including flaking paint and rust, crumbling concrete pillars, inadequate lighting and overwhelming noise.
“We have been trying for at least 10 years to get the J line painted,” said Wendy Bowne of the RHBA. “The creosote has been getting worse for five or six years.”
“It’s an issue of maintenance,” said Simcha Waisman, Vice-President of the RHBA. “We are very concerned for the safety of community residents, especially the children.”
Some local storeowners also noted that pieces of metal from the tracks have fallen down and smashed cars parked underneath.
Savatri Manni, 42, owner of D. Manni West Indian and Guyana Market, said her brother’s car windshield was smashed in by a large piece of metal that fell from the tracks in front of their store.
“Pieces have fallen off that track and it ruins the cars. It’s just a matter of time before someone dies,” said Jack Feldstein, 47, owner of an auto repair business located on 121st Street and Jamaica Avenue.
Feldstein said that about two or three cars come into his shop a week covered with creosote. Each could cost anywhere from $400 to $2,000 to fix, he said, because it requires a paint job.
Waisman went on to say that if the RHBA had the funds, they would consider hiring an outside inspector to investigate what, if any, health risks the creosote poses.
According to the website for FELA, or the Federal Employers Liability Act, “Creosote is the name used for numerous substances that are produced using high temperature treatment of coal, certain woods, or resin from the creosote bush. Widely used and unregulated for almost two centuries, creosote can be found in thousands of miles of railroad tracks and rail yards across the country. However, recent research has linked creosote to a number of health hazards, including convulsions, liver disease, cancer, and even death.”
The RHBA told The Queens Courier that maintenance for the J line is scheduled next for 2009, but that the problem needs for be addressed now.
Senator Serphin Maltese, in an attempt to expedite the process, has sent letters to Elliot “Lee” Sander, Executive Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and to Howard H. Roberts, Jr., MTA New York City Transit President.
In a response dated June 12, Lois H. Tendler, Vice President, Government and Community Relations for the MTA New York City Transit, wrote that, “Representatives of NYC Transit’s Division of Track are inspecting the length of the J line tracks [for creosote] . . . and will take action at locations where such incidents are noted.”
With additional reporting by Lauren Darson

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