Elected officials and community leaders left the February 3rd, closed-door meeting confident the transportation companies New York & Atlantic and CSX would consider moving joint transfer operations in Middle Village from 5 a.m. to later in the morning, in response to noise complaints from residents.
“We all agreed to look at moving [the transfer operation] to a later time like 7 a.m.,” said one elected official two days after the meeting, which was organized by the group Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) to discuss waste transportation issues.
But when he was informed of this, Pascuale Cuomo, a representative for New York & Atlantic (NY&A), responded with a simple message: not so fast.
Calling the claim “not quite accurate,” Cuomo said NY&A is prepared to consider scheduling changes only after receiving a complete wish-list of proposed railroad changes from CURES and elected officials working with the group.
Until then, he said, the company is not prepared to make a decision on the transfer times. Pushing the transfer procedure back two hours is out of the question, he said.
“Seven a.m. is not possible,” Cuomo said.
Outbound NY&A trains carrying sealed containers loaded with garbage collected from western Queens and elsewhere are assembled at the Varick Street station in Brooklyn every night before being sent to Middle Village.
There, at a spot on the tracks near 69th Place and Juniper Valley Boulevard South, between roughly 5 and 5:30 a.m., the trains are transferred to CSX, which carries the cars to the Bronx and beyond to out-of-state landfills.
Residents who live near the interchange location say the 25-minute, early-morning transfer operation is far too noisy.
“The sound is unbearably loud,” said Anthony Pedalino, who lives on 69th Place. “You don't get back to sleep [afterwards].” And in the summertime, said Laura Zimmer, another Middle Village resident, the diesel fumes emitted from the garbage trains smell terribly.
Cuomo disputed this and downplayed the noise complaints.
He pointed to an October 2009 investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)- done at the behest of Community Board 5- which found that, based on measurements taken over a two-day period in Middle Village, “no violations of the regulatory limits applicable to the different railroad activities were identified.”
Nevertheless Zimmer and others who live near the interchange insist the noise keeps them up, and that on hot days they must keep their windows closed to avoid the smell of noxious fumes.
“We're asking [the railroad companies] to be decent neighbors,” Zimmer said.
The existing transfer time was moved to its current time in response to a lawsuit over the issue filed by nearby Christ the King High School. Cuomo said changing it back again to later in the day would only inconvenience more people during regular business hours. He did say the company might consider an alternative schedule after it receives a full list of proposals from the community.
Mary Arnold, a CURES co-chair, said the issue of transfer times is just one of many community concerns that must be taken into account as local railroad companies and elected officials work to improve railroad conditions.
“There were a lot of powerful people in that room,” Arnold said of group who met at Borough Hall. “We're counting on them to [incorporate] our concerns into their calculations.”