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Forest Hills couple battle LIRR on train horns

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The couple has been seeking a limit or end to trains' horn blasting through the Forest Hills station and nearby area but thus far are dissatisfied with the LIRR's response. Add to that the fact that the trees along the tracks, a natural sound barrier and privacy screen, have been cut down since the fall, and the Levinsons get no relief.The LIRR said it has been reviewing horn usage in the area near Forest Hills."We are in touch with local officials about the issue and are reviewing internal regulations," said LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone. "We think we're going to have a decision very soon. It's becoming a very high priority item."The internal regulations regarding horn-blowing are meant as a safety measure, Calderone said. "The trains that pass through currently during rush hour, even if they're not stopping, they sound the horn according to internal regulations," he said. During a recent afternoon in Forest Hills, there seemed to be no logic to which trains honk and which do not. Some conductors honk gently, while others lean on the horn, Liepe-Levinson said."Currently the internal rule is even if they're passing through they do a series of warnings," Calderone said. "That's what we're trying to revise."An exasperated Liepe-Levinson stood on the platform late last week with a sign that said "No Horns," trying to take the message to its source, but she said MTA police asked her to leave.The couple has lived in Station Square for 25 years, Levinson said. A retired teacher, Liepe-Levinson works from home as an educational consultant so she hears the trains day in and day out and pinpointed August as the beginning of the noise."Monday is not as bad as later in the week" and the loudest time of day is between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., she said.They say the LIRR has given them different answers as they have complained about the noise."We were told it was ambient weather conditions, then we were told it was tree pruning, then it was Federal Railroad Administration regulations," Liepe-Levinson said. None of the explanations rang true to her, since the noise did not change with the weather and the federal regulations only apply to crossings at grade, not viaducts like at Forest Hills station, she said.The LIRR's autumn tree-cutting campaign has not helped matters, she said. Without the trees as a sound barrier, the train horn blasts sometimes trigger car alarms, prolonging the noise, she said.As far as whether warning workers trimming trees along the tracks was a reason for horn blasting, Calderone said, "we don't think so anymore."He explained that in some areas vegetation had grown into signal lines along the tracks, which could cause problems during bad weather, delaying or halting service."The tree trimming had to be done for safety reasons," Calderone said. "We're doing this across the system."Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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