In her State of the State address on January 5, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans to move forward with the Interborough Express (IBX). In addition to connecting communities and Brooklyn and Queens to as many as 17 subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road, this passenger transportation project offers the best opportunity in 25 years for modernizing freight rail and alleviating its pollution and noise burdens in communities of New York City and Greater Long Island.
On February 3, 2022, Senator Joe Addabbo hosted a zoom meeting where these opportunities were discussed. The Senator and Assembly Member Catherine Nolan’s office requested a letter from CURES (see page 14) outlining community needs and committed to taking it forward to the Governor.
As industries that could use rail transit dwindled over the past 25 years, freight rail facilities have been ceded to passenger transit or redeveloped for “higher yielding land uses.” Today, the New York City area’s main export by tonnage is waste and scrap, and a significant amount is hauled by rail. Existing community problems will increase if the Bay Ridge is also ceded to passenger transit without similarly transformative plans for freight facilities and movement. This is because the IBX, Cross Harbor Freight marine enhancement, and the ongoing exponential increase in waste-by-rail export all hub around tiny 10-acre Fresh Pond Rail Yard.
Fresh Pond Yard is already a bottleneck, where all freight lines switch and freight coming on and off Long Island is handled. Car storage and freight moves already spill over onto tracks in neighborhoods. Piecemeal expansion plans for using freight rail have not come with commensurate mitigation of increased pollution and noise, much less plans for systemic modernization of the freight system that includes where to store and classify 80-90-foot rail cars.
Photos in the MTA’s IBX feasibility study show Bay Ridge “storage tracks” for freight rail cars. The MTA identifies this as a “right-of-way constraint.” Where are those rail cars supposed to go? Cars are already parked all over the place by Fresh Pond Yard. It’s like there’s a one-cup measure available, and every siloed agency wants to put the contents of their 5 gallon bucket into it. The opportunity of the IBX is also the opportunity for a freight system that improves community health and quality of life, and includes rail and marine freight at a time when NOAA predicts up to one foot of sea level rise in less than 30 years. We await the Governor’s response.
Source: Interborough Express: Feasibility Study and Alternatives Analysis, Interim Report, MTA, https://new.mta.info/document/72081