By Rebecca Henely
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and residents of the Murano and One Hunters Point condominiums on Borden Avenue in Long Island City Friday decried the idling trains from the rail yard across the street, saying the noise goes on for hours at a time.
“Silence the engines and allow people to live their lives,” Van Bramer said.
Since the condos on Borden Avenue between Vernon Boulevard and 5th Street opened around 2008, residents have complained about the noise from the idling diesel trains in the Long Island City railyard. During the protest, which was held near Borden Avenue and 5th Street, a persistent loud hum could be heard from the railyard.
The yard, which has been in operation for more than 100 years, serves as a repair and holding location and is the only Queens yard west of Woodside with diesel equipment.
Trains from the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Greenpoint lines end their morning runs at Borden Avenue and are stored there until the afternoon rush hour. Diesel trains can take two hours to power up and the Federal Railroad Administration requires a physical inspection of a train’s brake system if it is shut down for four hours or more.
Salvatore Arena, spokesman for the LIRR, said in a statement the railroad has made efforts to address the community’s complaints. He said LIRR’s senior vice president of operations created a working group in 2009.
Some solutions the working group came up with to minimize the noise were changing equipment schedules, switching to electric power only on trains that use both diesel and electric power, moving idling trains as far away from Borden Avenue as possible and powering down one locomotive on dual-engine trains.
“We remain sensitive to quality-of-life issues for those living near the yard and will continue to address their concerns,” Arena said. “But, we must remember, they live next to an active rail yard in operation for more than 100 years, a station that services 10,000 customers every day and a transit center that plays a crucial role in the service we provide to our 80,000 daily customers.”
Despite the changes, residents said the noise is still unbearable. While the trains do not idle 24 hours or on weekends, some residents said the idling can start as early as 6:45 a.m.
“You can’t really talk on the phone during the day,” said resident Amanda Miller.
Miller also said the air smells of diesel at times throughout the day and that she was worried about any health risks.
Van Bramer said while it is true that the railyard predates the condos, the LIRR needs to change how it operates as the community continues to become residential instead of industrial and as the nearby Hunters Point South development is built out and IS/HS 404 opens and enrolls students.
“These buildings are not going anywhere,” he said. “They’re here forever.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.