COMMUNITY SERVICE: Mary Parisen is the co-founder of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES), a coalition of some of the largest civic associations in western Queens, that came together to improve railroad infrastructure, public health and safety.
BACKGROUND: Parisen, who works full-time as a school librarian, lives in Glendale, near the Fresh Pond Road freight. She was bothered by the noise, smell and pollution of the trains in the area. So in 2004 she spoke at a community board meeting about the concerns many people in the neighborhood had with the trains, and what came out of that was a green streets project.
“This was to try to abate the noise and make everything look nicer, but it still didn’t change the noise or the air pollution,” she said.
When Mary Arnold, Parisen’s neighbor and co founder of CURES, moved in, they both worked together to solve this problem. The women formed a group that focused on small but successful beautification projects, and at a meeting when the issue resurfaced, Parisen said, someone suggested a group of civics be formed to tackle the problem, and that is how CURES was born.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Together with the other civic groups, CURES has been able to get the rail lines to use better technology and equipment.
GOALS: CURES’ mission is to work with federal, state and local agencies, elected officials and the railroads, to ensure that they are proactively keeping the neighborhoods clean by having the trains use better and quieter technology.
“The increase in rail traffic caused an environmental burden in our neighborhood,” said Parisen.
Parisen and the group would like to see the repowering and upgrading of all locomotives in the Fresh Pond Rail terminal.
“I’m going to have a granddaughter soon, and I don’t want to have to feel nervous to take her out of my house because of the air pollution in my area,” said Parisen.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: According to Parisen, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council has said that rail is going to increase by 50 percent by 2040.
“This increase in rail traffic should not come at the expense of the people who live in the community,” said Parisen. She added her organization is not opposed to the use of rail, but she believes that this increase should be thought with mitigation with the community.