By Mark Hallum
A Long Island Rail Road work yard tucked within a residential area of Bayside has vexed residents since it moved from Great Neck several years ago. A diesel engine used for track work left idling for hours on end disrupts sleeping patterns, shakes the foundations of homes and the fumes from chemically treated railroad ties left stacked and stage in this area irritate eyes and throats.
James Lollo lives adjacent to the yard on 218th Street. He along with other residents attended Monday’s Community Board 11 meeting to voice their frustration about the ongoing problem.
“The LIRR executives who knowingly and willfully operate this site show no concern for the deplorable conditions they have created and who have shown a complete disregard for the men, women and children that live here,” said Lollo, whose complaints extend beyond the noise and air pollution to the workers themselves. “The 217th Street block where they enter is especially hazardous where drivers are operating at an unsafe speed well above the New York City limit. These reckless actions could prove fatal at any time. Materials and debris have been brought in and left stored in the yard and in many ways it now resembles a junkyard, where workers are urinating and defecating in open spaces.”
Ginny O’Leary who also co-exists with the rail yard, said she does not expect to get back what used to be in the that spot — a ball field — but would be happy to see the railroad move to another location.
Karen DiGiacomo, also of 217th Street was skeptical about what the community board could do to improve the situation and said the only option may be to pressure elected officials into fighting for change.
Lollo and his neighbors have reached out to elected officials and petitioned to have the site relocated to an area of Willets Point which is already an industrial zone, according to David Fischer, a spokesman for state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside). Braunstein set up a meeting with the LIRR administration about moving the site on Nov, 22.
“They agreed to look into moving the diesel engine, and other residents were suggesting an area like the Willets Point station and they said they’d look into it,” said Fischer, who was told around Jan. 29 that the LIRR would be making efforts to reduce the noise as well as moving staff away from the location. But Fischer could not promise that the men and the commotion would not return.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) issued a letter to Patrick Nowakowski, president of the Long Island Rail Road, Wednesday requesting that it consider moving the site.
“Residents request that this work yard be closed and work be moved west to the Willets Point yard, which is located in a more industrialized zone rather than being located in Bayside, which is more residential,” the letter from Avella’s office stated.
LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said the rail yard has served as a staging area for ongoing overnight work.
“We want to be good neighbors. Ongoing overnight track work to resurface the tracks of the Port Washington Branch to ensure their safety has led to an increase in overnight activity in the yard,” he said. “We’re about halfway through the project. We’ve asked our employees to be sensitive about the idling of equipment and trucks, and minimize it to the extent they can.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall