Gov. Kathy Hochul announced her proposal for an Interborough Express Rail that would connect Brooklyn and Queens during the State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan 5, and while many are thrilled about increased access to public transportation, there are those who are voicing concerns regarding the amount of noise the railway would bring to an area already overwhelmed with freight cars.
Hochul’s proposal would utilize a dormant 14-mile rail line, providing faster commutes for countless residents between the two neighboring boroughs. The rail would go right through the Ridgewood, Middle Village and Maspeth areas — which have been dealing with excessive noise from the New York & Atlantic Railway Co. (NYA) rails at all hours of the night, among other issues.
Residents near Mafera Park, and especially on Edsall Avenue in Glendale, have been battling with NYA for years now. They claim that trains currently come by at odd hours of the night, blaring horns and slamming freight cars together. This creates incredible noise and shaking that some say is ruining the foundations of their homes.
Luis Ross lives 40 feet from the tracks on Edsall Avenue and said the noise, along with the deteriorating conditions of his street due to the rail line, have seriously impacted his quality of life.
“We can’t sleep. Me and my wife were going to stay in a hotel one time because it was affecting my heart,” Ross said. “We’re tired. We either have to move out or tell somebody about this.”
In response to these concerns, NYA previously released a statement saying that although it is understandable residents are bothered by the noise, the horns are entirely unavoidable.
“Audible warning devices are federally mandated to ensure the general public’s safety,” NYA said in a statement. “Rest assured that our train crews are not wantonly sounding horns for any other purpose than what is required by federal safety regulations. Safety is of paramount concern to NYA.”
Residents today are still struggling to get a good night’s sleep with the NYA freight rails running through their otherwise quiet neighborhood. And now the potential for a new commuter rail has residents asking, how much more can this community take?
One resident, Linda Byszynski, a local activist and resident, said she supports a Brooklyn and Queens line but has concerns about the impact and placement of the rail.
“It looks like the proposed freight line that they want to use is the one in my ‘backyard,’” Byszynski said. “I have concerns because of the noise and the deteriorating conditions of the rail line.”
Another local, Sharon Vincent, has lived on 72nd Place between Edsall and Central avenues since 1998.
“I’m often woken up at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning by the horns,” Vincent said. “I would love to see some kind of connection into Brooklyn so I don’t have to go into Brooklyn via Manhattan, but I am concerned about it running here. This [house] is my retirement.”
This particular area of Queens is far off from any major public transportation lines. City Councilman Robert Holden told the New York Post that he supports the transit option for his constituents.
“Since much of our district is a virtual public transit desert, it’s exciting to revisit the idea,” Holden said. “More transportation would be very helpful. We need a thorough study.”
State Senator Joseph Addabbo said he sympathizes with the community and has heard the noise from the NYA rails first hand back in 2009 when he asked a constituent if he could experience it for himself.
“Here I am, sitting in the kitchen of a constituent at 4 in the morning, having my coffee and cookies, with the rattling of the dishes because the rail is so close to these homes,” Addabbo said. “I appreciate the governor’s vision, and it really is all about improving transportation, but to do it in a very environmentally friendly way with minimal impact on the community. I support the idea of moving forward in a very cautious way as we look at the details.”
In response to some of the residents’ concerns, an MTA spokesperson told QNS that they are working to begin an environmental review, which will give residents the opportunity to voice their concerns.
“The MTA shares the view of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards that this project will be good for all parts of Queens and we are eager to partner with him to pursue strategies that will enable the most efficient roll-out of the environmental review process,” the statement said. “We invite anyone with input to participate in the robust environmental review process that’s soon going to be underway.”
The MTA also said that the trains would be electrically powered, minimizing local noise and emissions. However, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who lives in Ridgewood, last week said she is “deeply concerned” about the proposal.
“I opposed the privatization of the Long Island Freight Line many years ago and there continues to be serious safety concerns. I want to ensure those I represent are included in the process, as they understand transportation needs between the boroughs better than any plan coming from Albany,” Nolan said. “I would oppose this project at this time but, of course, await information from our governor as to her vision to address the critical needs of Queens.”