As most Americans were enjoying the smell of hamburgers, hot dogs and fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend, some residents in Middle Village were forced to put up with the stench of open gondolas full of garbage parked behind their homes.
Many people complained when New York & Atlantic Railway (NYA), the company that operates out of the Fresh Pond Rail Yard — which runs through portions of Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood — left train cars of rotting waste behind their homes from July 3 to July 5, disrupting their holiday weekend.
“We got reports of foul odors,” said Mary Arnold, co-chair of Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES). “People have pride in their homes and they have their families over for the holiday and they have this. It’s just insulting. The way [NYA is] acting, it’s unfair, it’s unhealthy, it’s filthy, it’s un-neighborly and it’s totally unnecessary.”
According to CURES, the train cars were slated to be moved out, but due to the long holiday weekend, pickup of the trash wouldn’t occur until after the Fourth of July.
“They park over the holiday when they know they aren’t going to get a pickup, and they take it anyway and bring it into Queens,” Arnold said.
This practice of leaving train cars filled with waste in Middle Village is nothing new to the residents of the neighborhood.
“NYA has been parking trains behind the homes in Middle Village for years and they have one excuse after another as to why they do it,” said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA). “I remember a few years ago they parked trains loaded with solid municipal waste during the long Thanksgiving weekend. NYA is the quintessential bad neighbor, a company that does as they please with no regard for the community.”
One local elected official reached out to the train company to find out why the train cars were parked in Middle Village for the weekend.
“My staff was contacted regarding railroad cars full of garbage being left on the tracks over the July Fourth weekend. We immediately contacted New York and Atlantic Railway,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller. “The explanation that my staff was given regarding this situation was there was a new crew working that weekend. New York and Atlantic Railway decided that leaving garbage behind residents’ houses during the July Fourth weekend was acceptable. Residents had to deal with that foul smell while trying to enjoy their backyard for a holiday weekend. It’s unacceptable that this company continues to [disregard] the community’s quality of life, especially on a holiday weekend. After seven years, you would think that New York and Atlantic Railway could get it right just once.”
According to the railroad company, the train cars were not filled with trash, but rather with construction and demolition (C&D), which would not create foul odors.
“The cars in question were construction and demolition debris and contained no putrescible waste, either municipal or commercial,” said John P. Casellini, spokesperson for NYA. “The contents of C&D cars are the same as those found in a construction dumpster on the street next to a home in any neighborhood undergoing remodeling.”
Casellini suggests that community members reach out directly to NYA with any concerns or problems so they can handle the problem directly and in a more time-efficient manner.
“If the community has concerns with specific cars, we have a long-established protocol which we agreed to with local elected officials and community leaders to provide immediate and verifiable action,” Casellini said. “Despite knowledge of this, the complainant chose to reach out to other parties over the holiday weekend, naturally delaying the response. The New York and Atlantic has worked long and hard to be a good neighbor, and again asks those in the community with concerns to contact us directly, so we can check into the concern, verify if there is an issue, and if so, to immediately address it.”