Astoria elected officials are calling on Amtrak to repair and clean up a public sidewalk underneath a rail line on 23rd Avenue, arguing that the federal agency has a “poor track record of being a good neighbor.”
Congressman Joseph Crowley and Councilman Costa Constantinides sent a letter to Caroline Decker, the agency’s vice president of government affairs, slamming Amtrak for failing to maintain the sidewalk, which is cracked and usually covered in garbage.
“We are writing to express our profound disappointment with Amtrak’s consistent dereliction of duty to maintain its properties and mitigate the impacts of their negligence on the surrounding communities,” they wrote in the letter. “The cracked, uneven, and completely fractured pavement renders the public right of way absolutely inaccessible and unsafe for pedestrians.”
The officials acknowledged the importance of the rail line, a part of the Amtrak Northeast Regional train route, to the state’s economy but argued that “that does not provide carte blanche to disregard how the infrastructure affects the communities it has a physical presence in.”
The sidewalk is located on 23rd Avenue between 35th and 36th streets and has been reported to the Northeast Supported Services Field Staff. But Amtrak staff has said that the agency is not responsible for maintaining the space, arguing that the responsibility falls on the city to repair the sidewalk.
In the letters, officials pointed out that the landlord is responsible for maintaining the “public right of way” and that Amtrak is “undeniably the property owner.”
But a spokesperson for Amtrak, who said the agency is reviewing the letter to identify potential next steps, argued that it’s the city’s job to repair the sidewalk.
“Our preliminary review indicates responsibility for sidewalk maintenance is the obligation of the agency that maintains the roadway – in this case, the New York City Department of Transportation,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to working with Congressman Crowley, Council Member Constantinides and the New York City Department of Transportation on this issue.”
Crowley and Constantinides said it was “shameful” that the federal agency had little regard for the community and said the 23rd Avenue location is one of many that Amtrak has neglected.
“The residents of Astoria deserve to be able to walk on the sidewalk without fear of tripping into a gaping hole,” they wrote in the letter. “In fact, Queens is replete with glaring examples of Amtrak’s abdication of their responsibility to maintain their properties. One does not have to go far to find weed-choked Amtrak owned lots being used as dumping grounds.”
The agency drew the ire of Astoria politicians two years ago for an unrelated issue.
In 2016, Astoria homeowners whose backyards were located underneath the Hell Gate Bridge, which is Amtrak property, were told that a small fee they paid to rent the property would rise exponentially. One couple, who paid $25 a year to keep their backyard space, were told they had to pay $25,560, according to DNAinfo.
After lobbying from local elected officials, the agency decided against raising the fees.
Both politicians said they would be happy to discuss the issue more thoroughly and encouraged Amtrak to reach out.
“We welcome the opportunity to have a renewed partnership with Amtrak whereby consideration for the well-being of the community is a guiding principle of the decision-making process,” they wrote.
QNS reached out to Amtrak for comment and is awaiting a response.