CB5 votes against Cross Harbor Tunnel proposal

By Gabriel Rom

More than ten years later after the Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel proposal was first released, the fight continues as Community Board 5 members said last week that the proposal should be scuttled.

In a unanimous vote at the board’s monthly meeting Nov. 4 at Christ the King High School in Middle Village, CB 5 adopted a recommendation from its Transportation Committee opposing the transport tunnel proposed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The board recommended that the Port Authority refuse to consider the rail tunnel, which is projected to cost at least $7.4 billion. The members maintained that a tunnel below New York Harbor connecting freight lines from the 65th Street Railyard in Brooklyn to Jersey City would create a prohibitive burden for local communities already dealing with increased rail activity at the Fresh Pond rail yard in Glendale. The plan would also include a loading warehouse to be built in Maspeth.

“They’re talking about 20 trains a day,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5. “If there is as much demand as they’re saying, there might be 20 trains a day with 50 to a hundred cars coming. Let’s ask where will they all be coming through? Right over Fresh Pond Road. Right behind the CB 5 office.”

Giordano glanced at Vincent Arcuri, the chairman of CB 5, and said, “Right behind where Mr. Arcuri lives!”

Due to train traffic, most freight rail operation occurs late at night, and many carry waste, creating odor and noise that residents of central Queens have long complained about.

“Our communities have been overwhelmed by the amount of freight currently being transported by rail, since all freight transported by rail to and from Long Island (Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau and Suffolk) has to come through and be sorted at the Fresh Pond rail yard,” the CB’s recommendation stated.

The recommendation suggests that the Port Authority should focus more on fixing and updating trains that are already in use.

City and federal officials contend that the project would cut heavy traffic on highways around Manhattan. According to the PA, rail tunnel options can take anywhere from 111,000 to 157,000 trucks off the road daily in New York and New Jersey, while water transport is estimated to take 17,000 to 30,000 trucks off the road daily.

“The idea of putting all this freight on rail with only one rail line for all of Long Island,” Giordano added. “It is unreasonable to think that one freight rail line could handle anywhere near the amount of freight that they are talking about.”

The Cross Harbor Tunnel proposal is one of two preferred alternatives recommended in the PA’s Tier I Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was released in September. The other alternative considers increasing freight shipments across the harbor and reducing traffic on Hudson River bridges and tunnels.

The Tier I FEIS is also available for download at the Cross Harbor Study website, www.panynj.gov/port/cross-harbor.html.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.