Glendale waits..and waits for new train engines

By Gabriel Rom

After securing $9 million over the past three years in state funding for refurbished waste trains at Fresh Pond Rail yard in Glendale, civic organizations say that they have waited long enough for the trains to arrive.

Since 2001, residents, civic leaders and lawmakers in Central Queens have asked for relief from locomotive pollution from antiquated trains at the rail yard, which is owned by New York and Atlantic Railway. The freight tracks, which bifurcate the neighborhoods of Maspeth and Glendale, carry waste from much of Central Queens towards dumps in Long Island.

Each annual allocation of $3 million was supposed to refurbish a train. According to Mary Perisen, co-chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, two projects have not yet gone out to bid, while the third has been repeatedly delayed.

In a February 2014 interview with the TimesLedger, New York and Atlantic Railway President Paul Victor said a new, low-emission PR30B locomotives would be delivered by the end of the year.

The train has yet to appear and Perisen is growing restless.

New York and Atlantic could not be reached for comment.

The Request For Proposal from New York and Atlantic Railway for one of three low-emission locomotives was awarded on Feb. 1, 2014 and, according to the document, is to be delivered “on or before December 31, 2104.”

Perisen doesn’t find the typo so amusing.

“Families in the community have been breathing unnecessarily unhealthy air for two years now,” she said. “Why?”

Perisen says that the delays and missteps are endemic and point to larger problems with NYA.

“This process took longer than it should have, it’s more expensive than it should be, and there are no new engines working today,” she said.

In April, local lawmakers announced that $3 million was secured in the 2015 state budget to continue a program to overhaul old, state-owned freight locomotives. This was after state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) obtained $3 million in both the 2013 and 2014 state budgets for retrofitting two locomotives at the Fresh Pond Railyard. The funding is supposed to go toward modernizing the trains and bringing them up to more rigorous federal standards. In 2014 more than 80 Assembly members signed a Jan. 23 letter that Hevesi sent to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) urging him to continue financing the upgrade work.

The new equipment, which will retrofit the high-emissions freight locomotives with more modern engines, is expected to reduce the particulate matter in emissions by about 90 percent. Particulate matter poses health risks.

Residents along the tracks leading to the Fresh Pond Rail terminal in Middle Village and Glendale have long complained about noise and odors from the freight locomotives carrying garbage and other goods along the route.

The Long Island Rail Road currently leases a fleet of 11 locomotives to companies that haul freight throughout the city and state. The locomotives’ diesel engines are exempt from the Clean Air Act of 1970 and currently classified as Tier 0, a designation that indicates they produce the most emissions. The upgrades would turn the trains into Tier 3 and 4 machines.

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