Bayside residents are back with the same complaints almost two years after they voiced their quality-of-life concerns about the nearby Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) maintenance facility.
Senator Tony Avella joined a group of concerned citizens who live in the immediate vicinity of the LIRR work yard, located east of the station, for a press conference on Oct. 30. For several years residents who live on 217th, 218th and 219th streets have complained of the late-night-noise and air pollution to no avail. In fact, residents said that the problems have stayed consistent.
According to residents, LIRR built the maintenance yard several years ago to stockpile diesel trucks, train cars and railroad ties that they use to do onsite work. Agnes Mak, who has lived on 218th Street since 1997, said that she can hear the construction work during the day and late at night.
When she first bought the house with her husband Ken, she said that the trees and vegetation in the were lush. But soon LIRR began cutting down trees to make room for the equipment.
“Now they continue to clear out more vegetation on the site, they expanded the site, they put in more dumpsters and now they put in more construction material here. They’re using this as a staging area for ongoing nighttime work,” said Mak of her harrowing experience living next to the yard. Mak added that the dumpsters at the site have attracted rats into residents’ backyards.
Others like 217th Street resident Karen Digiacomo said that the air quality has been compromised since workers have started spraying the plant life with a toxic weed killer.
“They have been spraying with a known carcinogen, which is Roundup. They’re spraying the vegetation to make things easier for them. There’s no notification to any of the families here, so we could be outside, our pets could be outside and we’re all exposed to this,” Digiacomo said.
Avella said that he had a personal meeting with LIRR President Phillip Eng to discuss short and long-term resolutions back in August. Mak was also present at the meeting and said that the LIRR was only willing to make cosmetic changes like painting over graffiti at the site.
“But now a couple months later and we’re still waiting for some results,” said the senator. “So we’re here to call on the Long Island Rail Road to say this is a totally inappropriate use for this residential neighborhood.”
The senator said that the ideal solution would be for LIRR to move their equipment, employees and trailers to a more industrial area like Mets-Willets Point or Sunnyside.
“We have gone beyond what’s just blatant disregard and disrespect to what I consider to be criminal at this point,” Digiacomo said. “Something has to be done. They have to be stopped.”
According to a LIRR spokesperson, changes have been implemented to benefit the nearby residents, including fixing a track defect that would reduce the noise made by passing train equipment. LIRR personnel have also cleaned the yard, removed graffiti and ensured that the dumpsters at the site were used for construction material and not food waste.
“Being a good and responsive neighbor in Bayside is an essential priority of the Long Island Rail Road. This yard is an integral part of our 24/7 operation that moves hundreds of thousands of riders a day and we continue to speak with members of the community and elected officials to ensure that any disturbance is minimized,” said a LIRR spokesperson.
Updated on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 4:24 p.m. to reflect comments from LIRR.