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State-of-art fence built at LIRR site

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The fencing, installed in May, was part of a deal brokered by...

By Alex Davidson

After five years of lying fallow, the Richmond Hill Long Island Rail Road station has been cleaned up and surrounded with high security fencing to deter the homeless and prevent trash dumping.

The fencing, installed in May, was part of a deal brokered by state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Fresh Meadows), who secured $75,000 from the Assembly’s MTA Capital Program. The abandoned LIRR station had over the years become a haven for homeless people as well as a trash dump that included old shopping carts and food cartons.

“I had received a number of complaints about the poor condition of the station,” Mayersohn said. “I was appalled when I saw the neglect and rotten conditions that existed. Fortunately I was able to secure the funding needed to clean and fence the station, and I am hopeful that the problem has been eliminated permanently.”

The state-of-the-art fence was installed around the entire perimeter of the old station, which sits on a triangular piece of property on Hillside Avenue, Lefferts Boulevard and Babbage Street, just north of Jamaica Avenue. The area became part of Mayersohn’s assembly district Jan. 1 because of redistricting.

But this week, almost two months after the fencing was installed, a TimesLedger reporter found three homeless people sleeping in an archway below the station platform just outside the fenced-off entrance and some loose plastic supermarket bags inside.

Nancy Cataldi, president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, said the downtown area of Richmond Hill has always been a gathering spot for the area’s homeless population. She said the abandoned LIRR station, which was not cordoned off by fencing, only fed the problem

The station closed in 1998 but had been leased by nearby Simonson’s Funeral Home and used as a customer parking lot. The funeral home’s lease on the property ended, according to co-owner John Sommese, because the MTA told him trestles that supported the train platform were weakening.

Mayersohn and the LIRR had been working since January on estimates to clean up the property, which is part of a proposed city historic district that includes the newly landmarked Republican Club building, Richmond Hill Library and Simonson’s Funeral Home.

Community members and civic leaders had complained about conditions at the station since it was closed in 1998. Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey had said the LIRR never fulfilled promises to clean up the property.

But Mayersohn in a release said the LIRR had cleaned up the property and she was optimistic that the new fencing would prevent garbage from accumulating around the station.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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