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Hevesi, Miller pose new law to ban noisy trains

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State elected officials from the Glendale area are working on legislation to ban locomotives from idling near homes, the latest development in a clash between residents and a freight railroad operating in the neighborhood.

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said he and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Glendale) were adapting the language from a bill introduced in March by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (R-Bridgehampton). That legislation would prohibit locomotives from idling for longer than 15 minutes when within 200 feet of a residence in Nassau and Suffolk counties. It made no progress during 2009 and was reintroduced Jan. 6.

Hevesi said there has been some question about whether such legislation would be constitutional because railroads are governed by the federal government.

“If the courts don’t like it, let’s have a court fight,” he told Community Board 5 last week.

Representatives from Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, the group formed to pressure the New York & Atlantic Railway, praised the announcement.

“We are all so happy about the progress made by our local legislators,” CURES co-founder Mary Arnold said. But she had harsh words for the railroad’s recent contention that a month of operations along its entire line from Queens out to Long Island burns less fuel than the boilers on a single block of homes in Glendale. She argued that all the railroad’s diesel locomotives date back to the 1970s and boast outdated technology.

“I don’t think anybody would be standing up and cheering about having a new automobile if they had a 1972 Chevy,” she said.

New York & Atlantic officials have said they have been working with the city Economic Development Corp. to get grants to replace the engines in their locomotives with high-tech, cleaner models.

CURES will hold its next meeting Jan. 28 at Borough Hall to discuss the solid waste issue. The so-called “garbage trains” have been an issue in the neighborhood since 2008, when Christ the King High School began to complain that trains loaded with garbage containers were being left on tracks near the school for hours waiting for the interstate railroad CSX to pick them up to take them out of the city.

The school sued the railroad and the two parties worked out an agreement whereby CSX changed its pickup schedule and the New York & Atlantic moved the rendezvous location further away from the high school.

The new arrangement has not sat well with neighbors further east on the tracks, however. Many complain of locomotives idling outside their homes at 5 a.m.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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