By Joe Anuta
A study released last week said a plan to move the idling point for freight trains closer to PS 128 in Middle Village would not significantly affect the air quality at the school, which may provide a modicum of relief to residents who have reached their wit’s end.ï»¿
The study was part of a process to test the feasibility of moving the idling point from behind houses near the corner of Juniper Boulevard South and 69th Place. The new location would be several hundred feet closer to the school, but since the trains will begin idling around 5 a.m., before students arrive for the day, the idea is that nobody would be there to hear or smell them.
At a July 8 meeting, lawmakers met with representatives from the community, PS 128 and CSX Transportation about how to mitigate quality-of-life problems caused by the idling trains.
Residents complained that nearly every morning they are awakened by trains that idle outside their houses spew exhaust from their diesel engines. In addition, the sometimes 80 cars or more are driven past the houses and then back again as they change tracks at a switch point near the same location.
Several Middle Village residents including Ed Cataldo and Anthony Pedalino keep daily logs of the train activities and e-mail them out to elected officials and civic leaders.
And last week, they had to deal with an extra problem.
CSX had been replacing railroad ties along the tracks, and the new ties were soaked with creosote, a kind of tar that is used as a preservative for wood. The odor from the ties was so strong it prompted Cataldo to call the Fire Department last week.
CSX said the process of replacing the ties occurs across its entire 21,000-mile route of tracks and it had been completed last week.
“The cross ties are treated with creosote to help preserve them. This is done in compliance with environmental regulations,” said spokesman Robert Sullivan.
In the daily e-mails, Cataldo and Pedalino repeatedly blast borough lawmakers for not doing enough to mitigate the problem.
Their daily missives are full of words typed in all capital letters, like “toxic fumes” or “what a country! What phonies run the city, state and federal government.”
Pedalino and Cataldo want a sound barrier installed or the switch point behind their houses where the trains screech by each morning removed. They are furious that not enough is being done.
“I don’t know what the hell the answer is. I’m fed up with the whole thing,” Pedalino said, but he also welcomed the slight relief the plan to move the idling point might provide. “It will be a tremendous help if they even move it to that point. It’s a good first step.”
But in response to the daily criticism of elected officials, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and state Assembly members Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) issued a statement detailing their actions.
“The next step will be a formal presentation of the plan and the relevant studies to the community,” the statement said. “The plan to move the hookup location is an important short term step to provide relief to residents who have lived with a rumbling freight train next to their homes. There are still issues relating to freight rail in our community and this is not the end of the conversation with the rail companies.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.