Queens assemblymember’s bill to require freight trains to cover waste signed into law

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar with Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. at 68-01 Otto Road, in Glendale, to urge the governor for signature in June.
Photo by Anthony Medina

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar received the final signature from Governor Kathy Hochul on her bill requiring hazardous and toxic waste transported by rail to be covered with hard tarping, on Monday, Oct. 2.

Rajkumar’s bill, A4928, was passed unanimously and brought an end to the over 13-year-long battle to create safer conditions for those residing near the New York and Atlantic Railway. Once the law is enacted after 90 days, any hazardous and toxic waste transported by rail will need to be covered with a hard tarping to prevent spilling and the emissions of noxious gasses.

“I am proud to bring the people of New York state this monumental achievement for our environment and health. By simply covering rail cars transporting waste, we will prevent noxious fumes and hazardous waste from endangering people. All we have to do is put a lid on it,” Rajkumar said. “It is time to put a lid on the garbage, to put a lid on the noxious fumes, to put a lid on the hazardous waste. It’s time to put a lid on the destruction of our health and to put a lid on the destruction of our environment Just put a lid on it. It is common sense.”

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. also succeeded in the passage of the bill, S2022, in the Senate chambers.

“I am pleased that the concerns of our constituents who live in close proximity to rail activity have been answered. For too long, residents had to endure the foul odor and debris that emanated from the uncovered rail cars, but those conditions will be addressed with this new law. Our constituents can now live in peace. I am proud of what this bill represents,” Addabbo said. “Residents complained, their state electeds heard them, acted on it, and resolved the issue. That is how government should work for its people. I truly appreciate the efforts of my friend and colleague Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, as well as Governor Hochul’s approval of the bill.”

Those who’ve advocated for long-term action, including the Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) and residents along the rail line, have seen the bill change sponsors over its life, and Rajkumar’s recent victory as the bill’s adopter finally places their worries to rest.

“It is with our deepest gratitude that we express our appreciation to both Assemblywoman Rajkumar and Senator Addabbo on their monumental accomplishment on getting state legislation passed to containerize waste in rail cars,” said CURES Chair Mary Parisen Lavelle. “The victory we’re celebrating today belongs to them, it belongs to the residents, the civics, and Community Board 5.”

Earlier this year in June, Rajkumar and Addabbo invited CURES and local leaders to urge the governor to sign the bill (A4928/S2022) into law. A little over three months later, Hochel gave the signature. The bill was only introduced in assembly by Rajkumar for the first time in February.

“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to two extremely wonderful advocates for our condition … This is a tireless effort, said CURES member William Gati. “With great support from our community and our community leaders, we managed to do this.”

The issues surrounding uncovered waste on trail rails transcended past the city and into neighboring parts of the state. Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford, who represents Monroe County, was a co-sponsor of Rajkumar’s bill and shared with Rajkumar how emissions from waste by rail were the number one complaint from her constituents, according to information from the assemblywoman’s office.

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, serving the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Middle Village, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill and Glendale also shared his support of the bill on the assembly floor.

“Assemblywoman Rajkumar and I share the same communities and this has been an ongoing issue for many, many years…this is also going to deal with the biggest issues our constituents complain about,” said Hevesi. “This is an ongoing problem. I am so grateful for the sponsor [Assemblywoman Rajkumar] for her leadership on this. This is a great day for our community.”