Tag Archives: Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions

Glendale, Middle Village residents get more time to vent on waste-by-rail permits


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Residents of Glendale, Ridgewood and Middle Village scored a victory in their fight for the containerization of all solid waste transported by rail Tuesday, when elected officials secured an extension of the public comment period regarding permits regarding two waste haulers’ plans to increase their rail operations.

In the permits, One World Recycling Inc., which operates out of Lindenhurst, is looking to expand the total quantity of waste they transport via the Fresh Pond Railyard, which runs through parts of Glendale, Ridgewood and Middle Village.

Coastal Distribution in Farmingdale, which also uses the Fresh Pond Railyard, also seeks to expand the type of waste it hauls to include commercial and residential waste, and is planning to test out three types of containerization methods.

In a letter to Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), dated June 26, U.S. Representatives Grace Meng and Nydia Velázquez, state Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblymen Andrew Hevesi and Michael Miller, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Borough President Melinda Katz got the NYSDEC to extend the public comment period for permits.

“We are concerned about the impact that increased operations will have on the quality of life for our constituents in these communities, specifically in regards to odor from open containers that sit idle, the attraction of pests, and pollution stemming from the construction and demolition debris and other waste that are not adequately sealed,” the lawmakers wrote. “A public forum should be held in order to provide an opportunity for the residents to voice their concerns and reach an understanding with the companies planning these operations.”

Prior to this extension, the comment period was only 19 days long, not the typical time frame of 30 days. The public can now submit comments through Aug. 9.

The NYSDEC will factor in comments from the public when deciding whether or not to grant the permits.

For the One World Recycling permit, the public can submit written comments by email to OneWorldRecycling@dec.ny.gov or by regular mail to Mark Carrara, NYSDEC, SUNY at Stony Brook, 50 Circle Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790-3409.

For the Coastal Distribution permit, the public can submit written comments by email to NYAR.Coastal@dec.ny.gov or by regular mail to NYSDEC, Susan Ackerman, SUNY at Stony Brook, 50 Circle Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790-3409.

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In Middle Village, civic urged to help find CURES for rail waste woes


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Ridgewood Time/Photo by Anthony Giudice

They’re not giving up the fight.

The leader of a coalition aimed at changing the way waste is shipped by rail through Glendale and Middle Village urged residents at Thursday’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting in Middle Village to join them in their cause.

Mary Parisen, chair of Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES), informed those in attendance at Our Lady of Hope School of the group’s efforts to convince state lawmakers to ensure that any train cars carrying waste through local rail lines are capped to prevent residents from being exposed to dust and foul odors.

“We have now been working very hard on this issue, asking our electeds to push back hard, and [on Wednesday] we got a new answer,” Parisen said. “And the answer is, I don’t think we need to convince the state anymore that it has to be done. They have come and said, ‘We are going to entertain some type of closure for these rail cars.’”

Parisen explained that One World Recycling, a partner company in Tunnel Hill Partners whose rail cars travel through the Fresh Pond Rail Yard in Glendale and Middle Village, plans to ship bales of household waste in container cars topped with construction and demolition (C&D) debris. This combination of trash would then be considered municipal solid waste (MSW) and would be covered with a lid.

“If it’s just construction and demolition debris, which is what we see, there’s not going to be any sort of a seal,” Parisen said.

The community has until July 10 to comment on the One World Recycling permit while it is still in the draft stage.

Another partner in Tunnel Hill Partners, Coastal Distribution, wants to try three different options of covering their waste. They have a permit in the draft stage, which states that the options include using a synthetic tarp cover, a mineral spray or a flexible lid, according to Parisen.

“What they want to do is give them the permit, and then test this out, test each one of these options out and have our communities be the guinea pigs,” Parisen explained. “What CURES has been advocating from the very beginning is the total sealing of all rail cars containing any sort of waste. So this is totally unacceptable. We are not guinea pigs. None of this is going to seal odors, or dust, or prohibit vectors.”

Parisen urged the community to call and write letters to Joseph Martens, commissioner of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), informing him that they will not accept anything less than hard lid coverage on all types of waste traveling in rail cars.

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Civic group continues fight against open-top rail cars in Glendale and Middle Village


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of CURES

As concerns over transporting construction and demolition (C&D) debris via rail through densely populated communities grow, civic groups in Glendale and Middle Village are looking to stop a plan to increase waste operations through local freight lines.

Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) is now looking to the state government to step in and mandate hard lid covers on all waste-by-rail operations in New York State, before allowing any type of increase in waste-by-rail operations.

“We don’t want to breathe in C&D debris,” said Robert Holden, president of Juniper Park Civic Association, a founding partner in the CURES alliance. “We will pressure our local officials to make the necessary changes, to make them change the way they do business, or at least the way they transport waste.”

CURES wants “no expansion of waste-by-rail until NYS can control it, hard lids on all waste-by-rail.” According to the civics group, Tunnel Hill Partners, the non-hazardous solid waste handling company whose railcars travel through the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale has hard lid technology currently in use in New York, but it’s not being used in their Long Island facility.

If the state cannot control C&D residuals in open-top railcars, CURES believes that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) should not renew the permit for One World Recycling, a Tunnel Hill Partners operating site, creating more C&D residuals within the communities where the railroad operates.

“Dust, odors, vectors, litter, debris and stormwater runoff that are controlled by NYSDEC at the trash transfer station are dumped into open rail cars and sent into our NYC neighborhoods. These are acknowledged public and community health issues,” said Mary Parisen, chair of CURES. “NYS’s clear duty is to maintain the 370-ton limit for One World, not issue any other permits that increase unsealed waste-by-rail tonnage, and pursue updates to the law that will protect our communities from this unnecessary filth while getting trucks off the road at the same time.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo stated in an email to CURES that NYSDEC reviewed a permit to increase operations at One World Recycling to haul 1,100 tons of waste per day. NYSDEC approved them for a reduced maximum total of 500 to 800 tons per day, with the requirement of lids for certain odor-emitting waste, which does not cover C&D residuals.

“CURES is strongly opposed to increasing daily tonnage at Tunnel Hill Partner’s One World Recycling facility,” Parisen wrote in a letter dated June 9 to Joseph Martens, NYSDEC Commissioner. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we and other citizens bore up under increased freight rail burdens because it was a public emergency. For Tunnel Hill Partners to take advantage, to permanently increase tonnage on a site that is inappropriately small and otherwise ill-equipped, is shameful.”

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New York and Atlantic Railway responds to community concerns


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

It’s been there for more than a century and is being used more frequently than in recent years, yet the Fresh Pond Railyard continues to be a source of friction between its operators and nearby residents.

The New York and Atlantic Railway, which leases the Glendale rail yard from the Long Island Rail Road for freight operations, insists only so much can be done to mitigate concerns from local residents while meeting regional transportation needs.

“What has happened over the intervening 100 years, as one would expect, the community has undergone expansion and construction where the footprint of the community ends at the footprint of the railroad,” said Paul Victor, New York and Atlantic Railway president.

Even with the uptick in railroad activity, Victor said, rail transportation is historically “a fraction of what it was.”

“We always try to accommodate as much as we can to local residents, but we can’t really fulfill their wish and not be here because if we’re not here, you have to weigh the historic difference between a railroad moving something and a truck,” Victor said.

As it pertains to local concerns over New York and Atlantic Railway’s open top rail cars, Victor said that the waste in those containers is non-organic, non-putrescible waste. It is only construction and demolition waste (C and D), which does not give off offending odors or attract unwanted wildlife.

“That has zero impact on the community because it’s no different than a C and D container in the street,” Victor said. “Then, to be fair, you have to cover everything in every street and see what happens to the economy. If that’s what they want, don’t do it to the railroad car only; take every construction site and force it to be covered on every corner.”

Residents of Glendale near the Fresh Pond Terminal also raised concerns about hearing trains operating during all hours of the night.

“There is no physical way to accommodate the existing traffic in an eight-hour window, or a ten-hour window, or even a 12-hour window,” said James Bonner, director of sales and marketing for New York and Atlantic Railway. “The nature of the timing of our interchange for some other agreements we have with other community members is that you’re going to have be operating around the clock, and that’s what we do.”

To help alleviate some of the noises made by the trains, New York and Atlantic Railway has recently installed a greaser in the Fresh Pond Terminal, which reduces the squeal of the trains.

“We did this specifically because we told CURES [Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions] we were going to do it and we did it,” Victor said. “We talked with them, we said here’s what we can do, we made the investment and put that in.”

Mary Parisen, chair of CURES, believes that the C and D waste can cause problems for the neighborhood.

“People with respiratory ailments are subject to the dust from the cars when they are being transported and bang together,” Parisen said. “When rain gets in there it can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.”

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CURES wants to put a lid on open-top rail cars


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Updated June 3, 5:05 p.m.

An odoriferous open-top rail car, filled to capacity with construction and demolition debris, has been parked for several weeks in the Fresh Pond Railyard, directly across the street from Glendale homes, raising the ire of nearby residents.

Just an orange mesh lies atop the debris of the car at the corner of 68th Place and Otto Road, leaving it exposed to the elements of nature, according to one activist.

“When you have open containers like this, you leave the communities open to odors and debris,” said Mary Parisen, chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) civic group. “The orange top is not sufficient when the railcars are traveling near schools, parks and homes. These open rail cars are hosts for vectors, odors and storm runoff. Our communities cannot be held hostage by the state of New York to these conditions.”

“The railroad won’t move it. The rail car has a defect, which is why it is parked here,” she added. “The community shouldn’t be subjugated to vermin, raccoons or even rats. These long, heavy rail cars have been creating structural damage to homes, with seismic vibrations, and keeping residents awake all hours of the night.”

The rail yard is operated by New York and Atlantic Railway, which leases the site from the Long Island Rail Road for its freight operations.

A resident of the area believes that something has to be done about this rail car near his property.

“I’m not crazy about that, it’s been here over a week,” said Peter Germano, resident of 68th Place and Otto Road. “They shouldn’t leave it like that. You get a strong wind or some rain and it can get worse.”

CURES has urged Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and elected officials for the complete containerization of all waste moved by rail, not just demolition and construction residuals.

“If you put a solid lid on top of the rail cars, you will be protecting the community since they are traveling though densely populated neighborhoods,” Parisen said. “The state needs to be responsible for this.”

In May, seven local elected officials, including state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Borough President Melinda Katz, penned a letter to Martens asking him to consider implementing the use of solid lids on rail cars carrying waste near communities.

“Additionally, we would like to follow up on the use of hard lids on all freight rail carts carrying putrescible waste,” the letter stated. “The use of solid covers to restrict pollution is a strong measure that would benefit our constituents and all New Yorkers.”

Paul Victor, New York and Atlantic Railway president, confirmed that the rail car is off the tracks and near the fencing by Otto Road. He said the car is there because it is awaiting parts for a repair before it can be put back on the tracks and moved.

He also said that the orange mesh atop the garbage in the rail car is used to signify that it is filled with construction and demolition debris, and not any other type of garbage.

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


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Mary 3

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.