But the DOT is not responsible for the track, wrote Constance Moran, Queens' DOT borough commissioner, in a July, 2004, letter."The Long Island Rail Road is responsible for this condition," she wrote.A spokesman for the LIRR said that in fact a Ridgewood-based freight company, New York and Atlantic Railway Freight Services, was responsible for the track.And a spokesman for New York and Atlantic blamed Coca-Cola, headquartered in Atlanta."When we sit here and a big 18-wheeler goes by, the whole building shakes," said Alan Greenberg earlier this month. The office he occupies as deputy director for Fleet Services for the Fire Department overlooks the tracks on 58th Street. He called the tracks "dangerous," recalling a few months ago that a piece of equipment fell off a trailer and held up traffic for part of a day. On a recent visit, a piece of rear leaf spring lay on the tracks.The spur of railroad track splits from the Maspeth LIRR tracks, then runs east between two lots leased to FDNY fleet services, crosses 58th Street, and finally disappears under asphalt on property occupied by a Coca-Cola bottling plant. The dangerous situation is created on 58th Street where the rubber mat running about a foot on either side and between the rails has partially collapsed, exposing several inches of the rail to passing tires. Drivers could be seen swerving to the outside lanes to avoid a direct hit on the rail, exposed by the sunken mat.The DOT maintains that the rail is private property. Chris Gilbride, a spokesman for the department, said Monday "the [DOT] cannot remove or make alterations to privately owned railroad tracks."Sam Zambuto, a spokesman for the LIRR, said the rail line responded to a February Community Board 5 letter of concern on March 10, explaining that the track was not its responsibility. He said the LIRR wrote in the letter that the track was "a private siding... This freight track comes off the main LIRR track." As a private siding for freight, it was the responsibility of NY and Atlantic. The spokesman for NY and Atlantic said it bought the freight franchise rights about eight years ago, but he said the company would not fix the rubber mats, which he estimated would cost about $20,000 to repair. "We are not going to pay even a dollar," he said.He said that the Coca-Cola bottling plant, which he estimated sees 2,400 trucks each year, could haul its corn syrup cheaper and cleaner by rail. But he said they would not repair the line, unused since at least 1989, "because we have no customer there. Once we get a customer, we would be willing, gladly, to spend the money.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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