By Steve Mosco
In an effort to keep pollution-spewing garbage trucks off city streets, lawmakers have worked to shift waste transport onto rails.
But while this sounds like a positive arrangement, residents along the tracks leading to Fresh Pond Rail Terminal in Middle Village and Glendale are now forced to deal with an increase in trains — and all the noise and foul odors that follow.
Seeking to assist residents whose homes sit closest to the tracks, state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) requesting $17 million to upgrade locomotive engines on freight cars currently leased out by the Long Island Rail Road.
Hevesi said that while cleaning the road of waste transporting trucks is commendable, the unintended consequences are unacceptable.
“Transitioning from truck to rail for waste and freight transport is an admirable goal,” said Hevesi. “However, we need to ensure that while doing this locomotives meet contemporary engine emissions standards that don’t cause severe environmental degradation for the communities that surround the rail lines.”
The assemblyman said the engines currently used by freight locomotives — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grade Tier 0 — produce toxic emissions that were common in the 1970s before technological advancements made cleaner emissions possible.
Upgrades will bring the engines into EPA grade Tier 3 compliance and significantly cut down on toxic fumes and diesel consumption, Hevesi said. The assemblyman also said this investment in cleaner train engines will further the goal of a bill he co-sponsored that would require state agencies and public authorities to adopt energy conservation standards to protect the environment and reduce energy consumption.
“We have gathered broad bipartisan support for this project, from all affected counties, and believe the residents of Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk deserve a rail transport system that is environmentally sound and not detrimental to the health of our constituents,” said Hevesi.
Health is of utmost concern to residents of Glendale, who deal with the consequences of freight trains on a daily — and nightly — basis.
Anthony Pedalino, a Glendale resident, has been chronicling his experience with garbage trains for months. He said the toxic trains idle mere feet from his house routinely and it is time officials took the health of citizens into consideration.
“Government needs to act responsibly in achieving its goals of greener environments, but not at the cost of negative effects on a select group of people,” he said. “Railroads cannot operate in highly populated urban areas and ignore the effects it has on people’s lives. If they are to operate in these communities, they, along with government and the community, need to work out a plan to maintain a quality-of-living standard that we all deserve to live in.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.