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Trash trains may get tops

A CSX locomotive pulls a garbage train through Middle Village in 2008. State legislators are working on bills to enforce stricter garbage container regulations. Photo courtesy Robert Holden
By Jeremy Walsh

Middle Villagers and Glendale residents sick of the reek of garbage from the trains running through their neighborhoods may soon get a breath of fresh air.

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) announced two new bills putting pressure on waste companies to put covers on their garbage cars are winding their way through the state Legislature.

But Hevesi said there was little he could do about the noise and pollution from the railroad’s idling diesel locomotives, which often wake neighbors up at 5 a.m. as they await assignments. The NY&ARR is protected by the federal Interstate Commerce Act, which overrides state and municipal regulations and is outside the authority of state legislators.

The new Hevesi bills target garbage companies, such as Waste Management, that actually own and maintain the garbage containers on the rail cars.

The first bill would mandate solid lids for garbage that can decompose and leach liquid, and rigid tarps for other material like construction debris. The second bill enhances the monetary penalties waste companies would face for violating these regulations.

Railroad lobbyists are opposing the bills, he said.

“It’s money,” he told the audience at a Juniper Park Civic Association meeting last Thursday. “They argue they don’t have to do this in other states, so why should they have to do it here?”

Hevesi and fellow Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) introduced a bill in February that prohibits locomotive idling for longer than 10 minutes within 500 feet of a residential property and enables the state to issue penalties for that and emissions violations. But such a bill would be superseded by the federal law, Hevesi warned.

Civic members praised Hevesi’s latest efforts, but noted they did not address noise problems.

Anthony Patolino, who has complained at several CB 5 meetings about the train noise, said he is now looking for a home elsewhere.

“Right now I’m ready to take a hit on my home and get the hell out, because it is unlivable,” he said.

Joseph Scafidi, chief of enforcement for the city Department of Environmental Protection, said he went out to 62nd Place at 5 a.m. two weeks ago and recorded train noise that peaked at 73 decibels. They recorded relative silence at the location around 42 decibels.

“There’s a home within 35 feet of that location,” he said. “Intolerable.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who visited one resident’s home at 5 a.m. to hear the train noise for himself, pledged that some change would come from their efforts.

“We’ll have to work for it,” Addabbo said. “We can’t turn our back on it for a second.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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