By Steve Mosco
A land deal approved by the Suffolk County Legislature expanding a railyard on Long Island will bring terrible repercussions for the people of Queens, elected officials, civic groups and residents of the borough said.
More than 230 acres of public land in Yaphank, L.I., was sold to the operators of the Brookhaven Rail Terminal last Thursday immediately after Glendale and Middle Village residents pleaded their case to Suffolk officials.
Residents and elected officials said the expansion of the terminal would greatly increase the number of garbage trains passing through the Fresh Pond Rail Terminal in Glendale, increasing train traffic and hurting clean air quality.
“The expansion of this rail terminal will prove chaotic and will be a health hazard to the residents of Glendale,” said Anthony Pedalino, who lives near the rail lines in Glendale and deals with the noise and odor on a nightly basis. “The people deserve a little protection. Trains sit there spewing out fumes an hour at a time. This is so inhumane, it’s revolting.”
The $20 million deal gives the land to Brookhaven Terminal Operations, which said in a statement it has worked with the community before and will participate in an advisory board.
But that is not good enough for the people of Queens, who believe Suffolk County has not taken the borough’s well-being into consideration.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said the already bad situation in Glendale will only get worse with the expansion of the rail terminal on Long Island.
“What we want is for Suffolk County to understand the ramifications this sale will have on the people of Queens,” he said. “Somewhere down the line, it will mean additional waste for us and that is not a good thing.”
Addabbo commended the public for taking action and heading out to Suffolk to speak to the Legislature. Without them, he said, the measure would have passed easier and quicker if Queens residents had not put up a stink.
Moving forward, Addabbo said he will examine legal options to see if the deal may possibly violate the Clean Air Act, a law defining the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s responsibility for protecting and improving the nation’s air quality. Addabbo said he has already reached out to U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y).
“This might mean better utilization of land for them [Suffolk], but for us it could be a horror,” he said. “We can’t sit back. We have to get to work on this right now.”
For Mary Parisen, co-founder of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, getting to work means pressing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to push for an upgrade to the state’s locomotive system.
“Here they are expanding a rail terminal and we’re still using locomotives from the 1970s,” she said. “The fact that we have construction and demolition trains and garbage trains coming through our neighborhoods is unacceptable.”
State Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said improving the locomotives is a step in the right direction, but the daily and nightly disruption of residents’ lives needs to be of upmost concern to all officials involved.
“Improving the locomotives would be a great step, but we must find a way to mitigate the disruption of the people who live near those rails,” he said. “We can’t keep taking in more and more traffic — Fresh Pond Terminal is only so big.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.