Editorial: What Train Problem? - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the September 2012 Juniper Berry Magazine

Editorial: What Train Problem?

Election time is rapidly approaching and the usual junk mail is being foisted upon us with words of glowing accomplishments detailing how hard our local politicians have been fighting for us. Well it is time for the residents of Middle Village and beyond, to know what a complete and total failure our local representatives at the State level and the NYC Council have been. At the State level, our lead official is State Senator Joe Addabbo has been ineffective, and Assemblywoman Marge Markey, totally oblivious to any community needs has followed his lead with NO effort whatsoever. Neither one has done anything to inform the entire community about the growing garbage train problems and the accompanying environmental health hazards that are developing. NYC Council Member Elizabeth Crowley never disappoints with her clueless representation of her council district.

Without any input from Middle Village residents, our elected officials have decided that since the Staten Island Dump is now closed, the new way to transport garbage out of the city is to move it by rail instead of trucks. While this method removes a great deal of trucks from the streets, nobody has considered the negative impact of rail traffic to our communities. There will be additional noise from loud locomotives, the extended idling time, continual spewing of diesel fumes, foul odors from the exposed debris in the rail cars, infestation of rodents, and the slamming and screeching of rail cars as they make the turns and cross switches. What happened to barging? There is a very convenient waterway that is a viable alternative to using either of these methods. Besides, barging will remove over 300 miles of rail travel that the current garbage takes on its northern trip to Selkirk, NY and then back south to Waverly, VA.

The decision to use these tracks was never openly discussed with the affected residents who live along the track lines and beyond. For years those of us who now have the misfortune of owning homes by the railroad are awakened at all hours of the night by massive diesel engines, which often idle for extended periods right behind our homes and throughout the day. The locomotives also sit idling away before they pick up rail cars that are left overnight with open exposed garbage right behind our homes and schools. Senator Addabbo, as our lead State elected official, has known about this issue for years and has been totally ineffective in getting us relief from the noise.

More Garbage Coming

DEC has recently approved the expansion of the Review facility which more than doubles the throughput of waste tonnage that will be coming through this and other local communities. This means more trains, noise, diesel fumes, rodents, and foul odors.

The truth is that Middle Village is being transformed into a major industrial garbage /residential garbage transfer station. Our State Senator Joe Addabbo knows this but will not tell you about it for fear of a political backlash. Under Addabbo's watch we have quietly become the new ground zero for transporting residential/ industrial garbage for an ever-growing part of the city.

Here is where the uninformed are affected. At night the garbage is lined up behind our homes and schools and noxious odors are released into our community's air. Who really knows what those open exposed industrial containers have in them? But the real health risks come from the diesel fumes emitted from those old diesel engines. These trains were built in the 70's and they release toxic diesel fumes for all to breathe. This is the silent killer and the health of all is affected even though most Middle Village residents don't live along the track line.

The daily assault from those polluting trains is getting worse by the day as the volume of rail cars increases exponentially. They are building more and more rail yards on Long Island and Brooklyn yet nothing for our own Fresh Pond Terminal, which is where everything has to come before it goes out. The railroads have been using these tracks as staging and switching area. This activity is steadily moving north. Currently it has crept as far north as Eliot Avenue. Senator Addabbo has not gotten a penny for us for upgrades or relief. Cases of asthma will rise as additional polluting trains come through our community. A recent report from the World Health Organization just stated in fact that diesel fumes cause cancer.

Promises Promises

Joe Addabbo has done nothing to date but continually promises a noise test, additional air quality tests and finally, to secure a lawyer for us to pursue a lawsuit. He has done nothing to fulfill his promises and, as in football, Senator Addabbo is trying to run out the clock.

We have begged for sound barriers and a complete cover for the trains for five years and counting and still have no relief in sight. In fact, it is going to get a whole lot worse because in October 2012 if we don't get a lawyer to halt the release of the Review Avenue Transfer Station, more residential garbage will be coming through our community. There will be a further exodus of residents out of our community and New York. Today's potential homebuyers are very sophisticated; they know how to do research on the Internet when considering purchasing a home. It will only be a matter of time before we here in Middle Village are labeled the new Staten Island dump!

All this is being done under the very watchful eye of our elected officials, State Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblywoman Marge Markey and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. In my opinion, they feel that their political careers are more important than telling everyone the truth about the health risks from daily exposure to toxic diesel fumes. Remember also, not only are these trains behind our houses they're right behind schools such as Our Lady of Hope on Eliot Avenue, IS 128 and Christ the King in Middle Village. Even though people live away from the tracks, they are still breathing the same air as us.

We have to emphasize that Assemblywoman Marge Markey is completely uninvolved with the garbage issue in the community and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has done her usual disappearing act unless there are photo-ops to be done. Assemblywoman Marge Markey in particular has never attended any civic meetings about any neighborhood issues so when she reads this article she'll conclude, what train problem? It's called clueless and as taxpaying residents we can do better. Remember that on Election Day 2012.

Our community's future is at stake.