Tag Archives: Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions

Star of Queens: Mary Parisen, co-founder, Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES)


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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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.

 

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New train engines to improve Queens air quality


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi's Office

Antiquated, high emission train engines have been a great concern for residents in the industrial areas of southwest Queens. But now, an upgrade is on the way.

Freight trains passing through areas of Community Board 5 and 9 have been running past residential homes for years, causing the track’s neighbors to question any potential health risks.

“This is a quality of life issue,” said Mary Parisen, chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES).

CURES has worked feverishly to ensure upgraded locomotive engines for the area, and through work with Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and a coalition of elected officials, managed to secure $3 million in this year’s legislative budget to upgrade engines.

“This is the first win in what will be an ongoing fight to protect the health of countless families in Queens,” Hevesi said.

“With New York State’s recognition that outdated trains can be severely damaging to communities they pass through, we have taken the first step toward fixing this problem.”

The funds will kick off a pilot project that will upgrade the first of a number of antiquated, high- emission trains.

The trains, owned and leased by the LIRR, are currently equipped with “archaic” 1970s engines, and operate throughout the city and Long Island, carrying waste and cargo near residents’ backyards, schools, parks and beaches.

However, after the upgrade, there is expected to be an annual reduction in nitrogen oxide, a known byproduct of diesel engines, by up to 76 percent, or 120 tons of emission over 10 years, according to Hevesi’s office.

After years of work advocating for modernized engines, Parisen said that she and the other members of CURES are “ecstatic” simply because they no longer need to convince agencies and the government that the upgrade needed to be done.

“They all acknowledged that this needs to happen, now it’s just a matter of how we’re going to do it,” she said.

The allocated $3 million is going to the LIRR and the MTA, Parisen said, and they are going to upgrade however many trains they can with the amount.

“The locomotives now are doing the most damage to the most densely-populated areas,” she said. “We need to make sure the neighborhood gets the best locomotive possible.”

The coalition plans to continue petitioning the state until all necessary fleet upgrades have been completed, said Hevesi’s office.

 

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Residents angry over Suffolk rail terminal expansion


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of CURES

Locals are concerned an expanded rail terminal in Suffolk will result in expanded trains, noise and odor in Queens.

The Suffolk County Legislature approved the sale of more than 200 acres of land to Brookhaven Rail Terminal.

Residents along the tracks have longed railed against disruptive trains that rumble past their homes at all hours of the day and are worried their concerns will only increase.

“What does this mean for us? This means more trains, more emissions, more noise for residents” said Mary Parisen, chair of CURES (Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions).

According to Parisen, the new facility is said to be used for mining sand, but many believe it will soon be used for shipping municipal trash.

“That’s where the money is,” said Parisen.

Brookhaven Rail Terminal did not return repeated calls for comment.

“They say they are doing it to be green, but the only green is the money,” Parisen said. “Ask the residents near the rails if the rails are green. They’re still using locomotives from the 1970s.”

Residents and representatives from local elected officials made the hour-long trek to Suffolk to attend the legislature’s vote on Thursday, September 13, to speak out against the $20 million transaction.

“Our communities are already overwhelmed with polluting locomotives and more rail traffic than can reasonably be handled through the Fresh Pond Terminal in Glendale,” wrote Vincent Arcuri, chair of CB5, to the Suffolk Legislature.

Several area politicians also submitted letters to reconsider the sale to no avail.

“This is a call to examine the side effects of freight rail and handle them accordingly before expanding further and creating a larger mess,” wrote Assemblymember Mike Miller.

The sale was approved 16-2.