Assemblyman and Democratic Congressional candidate Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) acknowledges that some progress has been made at state and neighborhood levels to help alleviate noise and air pollution generated by the rail yards in Middle Village and Glendale.
But residents want more.
“And since railroads are regulated by the federal government, and I’m running for Congress, I’ve written a bill,” Lancman told a group of residents on Monday.
The press conference took place in Middle Village just north of Juniper Boulevard South, and directly over the tracks leading to the rail yard used by the CSX Freight Corp.
Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) is in a three-way primary race for the Democratic nomination in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District with Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).
The winner in June will go up against Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).
The assemblyman said he will introduce the bill, titled the Neighborhood Rail Improvement Act, on day one should he be elected in November.
The main portions of the bill would restrict rail yard operations, such as train maintenance, to the rail yard proper.
Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, and 69th Place resident Anthony Peladino said CSX and New York-Atlantic now move some trains out of the yard as a matter of space.
“They charge their brakes, rev their locomotives, couple and uncouple cars, and not just a few hours a day,” Holden said. “We’re talking four, five, six and seven in the morning,” he said.
A wooden staircase has been constructed to allow access to the tracks outside the rail yard at the dead end created where the railroad bisects 69th Lane.
“This is going on 24-7,” Peladino told the group.
Holden said some freight cars, including those carrying garbage, can sit idle for more than a day wafting their fragrant cargos into the neighborhood.
Holden expects the latter to get worse as a new transfer station is expected to introduce garbage from six new areas of Queens to be shipped through Middle Village, on top of what already is coming through.
“Waste Management should be using barges to take that garbage through Port Elizabeth or Port Newark down to Virginia,” Holden said. “Instead, it comes through here and goes up through Selkirk, which is near Albany, crosses the river and comes down on a scenic tour of New York State.”
Lancman’s bill also would allow communities that host rail yards some input into yard operations through the establishment of nine-member advisory groups that would be filled by residents appointed by Congress members and U.S. senators representing the host communities.
He admits that portion of the bill will work best with reasonable people on both sides.
“This is to get [railroad operators] to sit down at the table,” Lancman said.