Railroad move considered

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A group of Middle Village residents are one step closer to a good night’s sleep after a Friday meeting with railroad companies.

Residents, lawmakers, educators and representatives from CSX and New York & Atlantic railroads agreed to run some tests that will determine whether the companies will move some of the trains out of residents’ backyards.

They hashed out a plan at La Bella Cucina, at 69-61 Juniper Blvd., which sits right near the source of the community’s ire: the point on the tracks where the trains are hooked together each morning around 5 a.m. and their compression-powered brakes charged with air.

“CSX has turned our backyards into a rail yard,” said Bob Holden, of the Juniper Park Civic Association, in an interview after the meeting. “If this doesn’t turn out, then our next move is to go to court. And we’re serious.”

Holden and other residents have criticized the railroads for locating the coupling station behind Juniper Boulevard South between 69th Place and 69th Lane. The plan would be to move it about 300 feet southwest, which would put it directly behind the PS 128 annex, according documents from the U.S. Department of Transportation provided by the office of state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills).

“We have been working for over a year on how to alleviate the suffering of the people in that area,” said Ashley Pillsbury, a spokeswoman for Hevesi. “CSX has been batting this around for a long time. They want to be good neighbors.”

But before the plan to move the station can be implemented, PS 128 Principal John Lavelle requested that an air quality study be conducted to ensure the school’s air-conditioning system did not pull in diesel exhaust and circulate the fumes throughout the building.

The preliminary air quality tests were set to be conducted this week when no trains would be present. After a baseline is determined, a representative from the city Department of Environmental Protection or the state Department of Environmental Conservation will test the difference in air quality, according to Pillsbury.

The trains usually begin the coupling and brake-charging process nearly three hours before students arrive at school, and the buildings in the area will act as additional sound barriers.

PS 128 did not respond by press time Tuesday.

That 5 a.m. wake-up call is exactly why Anthony Pedalino, whose house is near the tracks, wants a change.

Pedalino was one of two representatives from the community at the meeting, which he felt was a good first step, but not enough to fully address the problem.

“I’m not satisfied with the plan,” said Pedalino, who keeps a log of the train companies’ activities and sends it out to the community.

Pedalino would like to see the coupling point moved farther north, out of the residential areas completely. He would also like to see a sound barrier installed through Middle Village.

Pedalino and Holden convinced the company to do an air quality test at residents’ houses as well.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 11:30 am, October 12, 2011
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