Weiner must regulate garbage trains: Civics

Garbage-filled trains frequently travel along this litter-strewn corridor in Middle Village. Photo courtesy of Robert Holden
By Joe Anuta

A civic group met with U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) last month in the hopes the lawmaker would join the fight to regulate trains that haul garbage through many neighborhoods in western Queens.

The group, called Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, has long called on the city to address numerous side effects of the trains like pollution and malodorous smells.

In the past, it has partnered with other elected officials like state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) to help pass legislation, but this is the first collaboration with Weiner, who could not be reached for comment.

“We’d like for him on the federal level to try to make some sort of suggestions for where these railroads will go,” said Mary Parisen, co-chair of CURES. “We want him to try and get some money to secure to force these railroads to stop polluting and upgrade their locomotives.”

One of the main issues the group wanted Weiner to investigate was how the city could use more water transportation to dispose of the borough’s garbage in western Queens instead of trains, according to Parisen.

The city is currently conducting a study about a proposed tunnel between Brooklyn and New Jersey, but the study does not consider water transportation, Parisen said.

“We asked them to provide a marine network,” she said.

Robert Holden of the Juniper Park Civic Association also called on the congressman to look into more water transportation so fewer trains roll through the neighborhood.

“The main breadth was getting Congressman Weiner to really push for the barging of solid waste,” Holden said.

A private company called Waste Management now trucks the garbage of western Queens out of a site on Review Avenue in Long Island City.

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a long-term plan to try and cut back on the number of trucks that transport waste out of the five boroughs in an attempt to be more environmentally friendly.

The plan, called the Solid Waste Management Plan, aims to switch to using trains and barges to move refuse instead of trucks.

“The heavy reliance on trucking has impacts on the environment and on local communities along major truck routes,” the plan said.

Several waste processing sites in the city are slated to include barges in their operation, but the Review Avenue site is slated to only use trains.

“The barge plan doesn’t call for a Review Avenue location,” Holden said. “We said why not us? They could do it easily.”

But George McGrath, spokesman for Waste Management of New York, said the western Queens facility is too small to accommodate a barge.

The site handles about 1,100 tons of garbage a day, according to McGrath. To facilitate the need for a barge, the plant would need to truck in about 4,000 tons of garbage a day.

“The site would have to take in a lot more waste than it’s configured or permitted for,” he said. “It would have the opposite effect of alleviating truck traffic.”

But Holden said Waste Management did not want to use a barge solely to save the company money.

“It’s a profit margin,” he said. “You mean to tell us that all this garbage can’t fit on one barge? If the city or the state mandated them they would have to do it.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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