Federal Case for Rail Woes

State Acting But Pol Wants D.C. Involved

Ranking state health and environmental officials have been informed of the ongoing noise and air pollution experienced by residents living near freight rail lines in Middle Village and are moving to conduct further testing, a local lawmaker informed residents at the Juniper Park Civic Association’s (JPCA) Mar. 8 meeting.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo noted that he and a contingent of lawmakers from around Queens met the previous day, Wednesday, Mar. 7, with Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and officials with the state Department of Health (DOH) in Albany to inform them of problems related to freight rail oper- ations along the CSX line in Middle Village.

Among the lawmakers who participated in the session were Assembly members Andrew Hevesi, Rory Lancman, Mike Miller and Catherine Nolan. Representatives of State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Assemblyman David Weprin and City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley were also in attendance.

While the state agencies have little jurisdiction over the operation of train lines-which fall under the purview of the federal government- Martens and DOH officials agreed to conduct further air testing near the tracks to determine if pollution levels pose a health hazard to residents living nearby, Addabbo noted. The air quality of both Middle Village and Glendale will also be subject to testing.

State officials also agreed to present these matters to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for further investigation, the senator added.

Furthermore, the legislators were informed that the DEC will inspect waste transfer stations to investigate reports that some of the rail shippers are putting regular household waste into container cars designated to store construction and demolition debris.

Even so, Addabbo told residents at the JPCA meeting that “there’s just so much the state can do,” adding that “it’s going to take a lot of effort” with federal officials to resolve the problems plaguing local residents.

To that end, local lawmakers are reaching out to Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Bob Turner to make appeals to federal agencies to help find solutions to problems being experienced by local residents.

Middle Villagers living in the area of the CSX line-which runs next to homes in the vicinity of 69th Place and Juniper Boulevard South-have been complaining for years about early morning rail activity along the line that has not only disturbed their sleep but also exposed them to nox- ious fumes and loud noise.

Though a compromise was reached to relocate a transfer point at the location further south (closer to All Faiths Cemetery and P.S./I.S. 128’s annex), residents have stated in e-mails sent to this newspaper regularly that the noise and air pollution continues to trouble them.

Anthony Pedalino, one of those residents, told Addabbo at last Thursday’s meeting that he resented that railroad operators have been given grants to purchase cleaner diesel locomotives while neighbors haven’t been given “one red cent” for a proper environmental impact study or devices such as sound barriers.

“It seems like the railroad has been put ahead of everyone’s lives,” Pedalino said.

Laura Zimmer, a Middle Village resident who stated that the railroad problems are forcing her to move out of the community, charged that the neighborhood cannot afford to wait for more study and needed an immediate resolution to the problems.

“This is a huge health hazard all around,” she said. “It’s just taking over this neighborhood. It has to happen now. The actions has to start soon.”

Addabbo assured residents that state officials were ready to work quickly on investigating the situation, but he repeated that federal officials and agencies would need to get involved since railroad operations fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction in the Interstate Commerce Act.

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