Over the past few years, Middle Village has been bombarded with a markedly increased amount of railway activity. This is mostly due to the transportation of solid waste. To exacerbate this problem, activity that was previously carried out closer to Christ the King was moved further down the tracks to its present location starting just South of 69th Lane. At this location, solid waste, which is stored in various types of freight cars, is staged by a local Rail Company for future pickup to its final destination. On most days, neighbors see this staging operation done around 5:00 PM. The solid waste sits there overnight until it is picked up the next day. Currently there are approximately six of these stagings per week. The hook-up operation, which moves this freight to its final destination, is done by another railway company each morning with few exceptions, around 5:00 AM and lasts approximately 30 minutes. The operation uses at least two diesel locomotives that sit at the same spot idling, at various RPM, waking up the neighborhood with loud diesel engines while spewing out noxious fumes and soot.

All Hours
There is often other activity during the middle of the night where locomotives and freight cars are moved from one location to another using these tracks. Sometimes these trains stop and idle for some time and other times they just come barreling through “hell bent for leather” with no regard for the effects to the surrounding community. There is additional daily railway activity of idling at various times of the day. These can last from several minutes to hours on end. We have a right to be able to live with some sense of peace and quiet and to breathe clean air! Children and adults need to get a full night of sleep in order to function adequately at work and school!

Noxious Fumes
The amount of idling often means that two or three locomotives are spewing out noxious fumes into the air at the same location, in close proximity to homes, with no concern of health issues to the residents of this community. Numerous studies have shown adverse effects of diesel exhaust on the health of people who are not only in close proximity, but also those in the surrounding areas. Unbeknownst to them, their health is at great risk. The elderly, children and those with heart and lung disease are particularly vulnerable. This is not just our issue, it is in each community where this occurs.

The Taste of Trash
Residents also put up with the smells and health hazards from putrescent municipal waste cars, especially during the summer months. There are instances when, because of a holiday, this garbage may sit there for several days further exacerbating the problem. It now seems to neighbors that there has been an increase in rodent and mosquito population. This has had a negative effect on the daily lives of the people who live here and have to put up with the very loud thumping of diesel engines, foul odors, noxious fumes and the soot that is spewed into the air. It has become impossible to enjoy your back yard, hang out laundry, or have your children go out and play. You dare not plan a barbecue in your yard during the summer. Eating a meal with your window open can be nauseating when the trash train comes through. Some neighbors have labeled it “an embarrassment.”

What They Don’t Tell You
There is an irony in the fact that a recent television commercial from CSX showed people breathing fresh air and enjoying life and nature. Their boast was that they can ship over one ton of freight over 400 miles for each gallon of diesel consumed. To this, I applaud them. What they didn’t show is that while this works over the long haul, it does not work locally in urban areas. The emission of diesel fuel in a concentrated area cannot have any positive effect on the locals. As these locomotives do not shut down, they continue to consume diesel fuel while sitting around idling. As this occurs several times daily, this could amount to a substantial amount of noxious diesel fumes spewed into the environment per locomotive, at the same spot! While this often occurs around 69th Lane, it has been noted by other residents that it occurs at many other locations along this rail corridor. One has to wonder what health issues there are to the residents of this community of people! What is it doing to our children and grandchildren?

One has to ask, with the adverse effects to the community, including economic, that this has brought on, where are the impact studies? Has anybody even considered that this is being done in a highly residential community?

The Negative Effect
Recently while discussing this problem with a homeowner neighbor, I inquired that I had not seen their tenant, a family with three small children. I was told that they had moved because of the train activity. I was also told that because of this same activity, she has not been able to rent her apartment and that she did not know how much longer she could afford to support this house without a rental income. This new level of train activity for solid waste may start the slow erosion of the areas close to the tracks. Others have stated their unwillingness to put monies into their houses as they feel this will be a waste.

We are taxpaying citizens who take a great deal of pride in our homes and neighborhood. We have invested in keeping our community a desirable place to live. We have raised children in these homes and some of these children plan to raise their children here. The rail companies are making money at a cost to us, a cost to our quality of life, cost to our health, cost to our investment, and finally cost to the entire neighborhood.

While there may be a need to move freight in a more efficient manner, the railroads, waste processing companies and government need to show obligation and responsibility to the community. They seem to believe it is their right to operate in any way they see fit. Elements that need to be considered include pick-up point and time, less idling, length and contents of trains, types of container, sound abatement, and zoning.

On January 10, 2010 at 5 AM, several of the residents were visited by State Senator Addabbo, who quoted the following in a local newspaper. “The noise is incredible. I don’t know how they expect these people to sleep” Assemblyman Miller was recently quoted by the same paper as saying, ”It really is not fair to these people.” We need ALL of our elected officials to get “ON Board” and work together to alleviate the problem and bring a sense of relief to the community. It is high time that the elected officials, all elected officials, take a very active role in the resolution of this problem to save our communities or there will no longer be any communities worth living in!

During this election year, the affected communities need to carefully consider whether or not our current elected officials should continue to represent us

Laura Zimmer contributed to this article