By Jeremy Walsh
Rumblings about the rumbling diesels upsetting the new residents of condominiums next to a Long Island City rail yard apparently reached the Long Island Rail Road, which has undertaken measures to reduce noise there.
The century-old Borden Avenue rail yard is the terminus of the non-electrified Montauk, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Greenport LIRR lines because diesel locomotives are not allowed in the tunnels under the East River.
But the railroad’s practice of leaving half a dozen passenger locomotives idling at the yard became a problem when the 12-story, 132-unit condo tower One Hunters Point opened its doors just across the street in late February.
Residents who bought some of the new condos had apparently not visited the site when the trains were running before they purchased their apartments and were rudely reminded of their proximity to a working rail route.
Many of the 80 signatures gathered on an anonymous online petition to the LIRR came from residents of that building, although other signers said they lived in the nearby Citylights building. There are now at least seven major residential developments either completed or under construction within three blocks of the rail yard.
Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley, who took up the fight after hearing about the online petition, said he first noticed the change several weeks ago when he was touring the area with planners in anticipation of the Hunters Point South redevelopment project.
“We were standing on the corner of Vernon and Borden and I said to everybody, ‘There’s something missing here. It’s quiet,’” said Conley, noting he was in the neighborhood until 2 p.m.
An LIRR spokesman confirmed that the railroad has been working to reduce noise and exhaust fumes in the area, both by shutting down most of the locomotives stopped at the yard and moving other trains further east on the rail spurs, away from the condo buildings.
“The LIRR will continue to be vigilant,” the spokesman said. “ But we do caution that it may not always be possible to keep diesel idling and noise at this current level, especially during winter when cold weather temperatures may require that diesel trains be kept running. Otherwise, we will have difficulty starting the trains.”
But he also warned that spring and summer will bring special trains that go from Long Island City to Montauk, and those could increase train noise and fumes.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.