Tag Archives: New York and Atlantic Railway

LIRR bridge work to close Glendale street

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Tom Walsh

A portion of a Glendale street is closed as the Long Island Rail Road reconstructs an overpass above it.

The LIRR is making repairs to the railroad bridge that runs above 65th Street between Otto Road and Shaler Avenue in Glendale, according to Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5.

The tracks, which are owned by the LIRR, are leased for use by New York and Atlantic Railway (NY&A). According to NY&A President Paul Victor, the project will require the entire bridge to be replaced. What makes this project more difficult is that it must be done “under traffic,” which means train operations will not stop during the construction.

Only one of the four tracks will be out of service at a time, according to Victor, which will allow NY&A’s freight trains to continue to operate during construction.

“The street is going to probably be closed for a two month period, give or take,” Victor said.

Giordano told the Ridgewood Times in a phone interview that he received verbal confirmation from the LIRR that “in all likelihood, the project will not be completed before the end of calendar year 2015.”

Emergency vehicles and residents should be prepared to use Cypress Hills Street or 80th Street as alternate routes while the bridge is closed, Giordano said.


New York & Atlantic’s safety procedures under review following Maspeth crash

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

In the wake of a fiery collision between a train and a tractor-trailer at a railroad crossing in Maspeth on July 8, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Tuesday that it will launch a safety review of New York & Atlantic Railway’s (NYA) safety culture and management practices.

The train was traveling at a minimum of 20 mph, 5 mph above the area railroad speed limit of 15 mph, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

This safety analysis will review NYA’s operational practices, its compliance with federal regulations and the overall safety culture of the train operation company. The FRA stated that NYA has committed to fully cooperate with the safety review.

“Rail safety is a responsibility DOT [Department of Transportation] shares with the operators,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Railroads must adhere to the strict standards of safety set by FRA, and FRA must ensure and enforce compliance in order to protect lives. This safety review aims to do just that.”

The FRA’s rail safety team will inspect NYA’s operating departments; engineer and conductor certifications; locomotive engineer oversight; grade crossing diagnostics; the company’s operation control center procedures and rail traffic controller training methods; human factors that may have caused the crash; and its compliance with federal practices regulations.

Photo by Robert Stridiron

Photo by Robert Stridiron

“[Tuesday’s] announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to launch a safety review of the New York & Atlantic Railway is welcoming news,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan in a statement. “After last week’s train-truck collision in Queens, this study is much needed for our community. I am confident that this review by the FRA will help to improve safety standards. I will continue to monitor this important situation and working with my partners in government – city, state and federal — to make sure that Queens rails and roads are safe.”

After the FRA completes its review of NYA’s safety culture and practices, it will issue a report outlining their findings and provide recommendations to the railroad company. Additionally, the FRA will evaluate NY&A’s follow-up to the recommendations and assess if subsequent actions are necessary to strengthen safety at NYA Railway.

“In this safety sweep of NYA, FRA will provide recommendations on specific areas where the railroad must improve to meet the high safety standards FRA and the country expect,” said Sarah Feinberg, acting FRA administrator.

The Courier has reached out to Paul Victor, president of NYA, and is awaiting a response.


Train that hit truck in Maspeth was speeding: investigators

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Anthony Giudice

The locomotive that crashed into a tractor-trailer at a Maspeth intersection on July 8 was traveling above the speed limit, and the man behind the switch could face disciplinary action, authorities reported.

The early-morning accident at the six-track railroad crossing on Maspeth Avenue near Rust Street caused the truck to burst into flames. The driver managed to escape with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Sources familiar with the investigation told The Courier on Tuesday that the train was moving at a minimum of 20 mph; the railroad speed limit for the area is 15 mph. Reportedly, the engineer operating the train is now facing disciplinary action.

Video of the accident obtained by The Courier shows the railroad crossing gates on Maspeth Avenue activated only at the moment of impact. A source familiar with the situation said the train’s faster speed may have delayed the gate’s activation.

But a union official, in a WABC-TV report on Tuesday, claimed one part of the gate “never comes down normally.”

New York and Atlantic Railway (NYA) President Paul Victor disagreed with notions that the gate malfunctioned, but conceded the Maspeth Avenue crossing’s design is flawed and requires improvement. The NYA reportedly asked the state Transportation Department to evaluate the signal system and the crossing’s logistics.

“Given the accident and the understanding that there have been other incidents there, it certainly makes logical sense to do an engineering evaluation of that crossing,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a heavily trafficked route with lots of trucks and commercial traffic that goes back and forth. It’s a very unusual crossing.”

The crossing is part of the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch extension, which is leased exclusively to NYA west of Jamaica for its freight rail operations. Wednesday’s accident raised concerns among local residents regarding the safety at other at-grade railroad crossings along the line, such as the one on 88th Street in Glendale.

According to Community Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri, the rail switches activating the crossing gates at 88th Street are dependent upon train speed. When passenger trains operated on the Montauk branch west of Jamaica, the switches were located 300 feet away from the crossing because the trains moved at 40 mph.

With the line exclusively used for freight rail and all trains limited to 15 mph, the switches were relocated to within 10 to 20 feet of the crossing, he noted. Freight train operators were also instructed to slow down when coming to a crossing, then send a crew member out to check that the crossing gates were activated before proceeding.

This change, Arcuri said, makes drivers and pedestrians at the 88th Street crossing especially “nervous,” as they can see the train very close to the crossing well before the gates are activated.

“The LIRR decided when they stopped the two passenger train runs to abandon the passenger line and turn it over [to NYA] as a freight line so they didn’t have to upgrade the signal system,” he added. The board has requested that the LIRR move the signal switch further back at 88th Street and other local at-grade crossings for safety’s sake.

Arcuri, however, claimed the freight signal system in place on the Montauk line is similar to that used on the Bushwick branch of the LIRR — which links up to the Montauk line — and other freight rail systems across the U.S. for generations.


Video shows fiery Maspeth train-truck collision and apparently slow crossing gate

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Video courtesy of Filco Carting Corp.

Updated July 10, 4:45 p.m.


Footage from a garbage truck’s dashboard camera depicts Wednesday’s fiery collision between a train and tractor-trailer in Maspeth early that morning — as well as an apparently slow railroad crossing gate.

The video was shot from a Filco Carting rig traveling westbound on Maspeth Avenue approaching Rust Street, stopping before the four-track crossing on the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Montauk branch where the accident occurred at about 12:37 a.m.

As shown in the video, the tractor-trailer heading eastbound on Maspeth Avenue was passing over the tracks when a New York and Atlantic Railway (NYA) locomotive heading southbound  —with horns blaring  — smashed into the trailer.

The gates, however, were up when the train hit the truck, which was dragged a distance and burst into flames. The red lights on the gates activated a split-second before impact, and the video shows the crossing gate lowering as the train and truck pass out of the picture.

Officers from the 104th Precinct and EMS units responded to the accident; the driver escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.

According to WABC-TV, Filco Carting installed dash cams on all of its rigs as a safety measure.

An LIRR spokesperson said on Thursday that the NYA is responsible for the condition and maintenance of the railroad crossing gate; the NYA leases the Montauk branch west of Jamaica from the LIRR for its freight operations.

However, a source with the NYA said the issue is “complicated.” The NYA is the main operator of the crossing gate, but both entities are jointly responsible for the gate’s maintenance.

Congresswoman Grace Meng said that while she is “thankful that nobody was killed, we must get answers as to why this happened.”

“The video showing the freight train crashing into a tractor-trailer is extremely scary — and it’s very disturbing that the gate at the railroad crossing failed to come down in time,” Meng said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “I have been in touch with all stakeholders pertaining to this accident, and I am being kept up-to-date on the investigation. … The crossing gate cannot be allowed to fail again. The safety of train personnel, motorists and area residents must not be compromised.”


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.”


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.


Community leaders trash railroad garbage expansion plan

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Residents and community leaders are trashing a company’s plan to increase garbage export from Long Island through their neighborhoods.

One World Recycling, which processes garbage in Lindenhurst, Long Island that is hauled by New York and Atlantic Railway through tracks in Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale, has applied to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to nearly triple its output from 370 tons of garbage per day to 1,100 tons.

“We’re going to have garbage all day and all night, that’s how we see it,” said Mary Parisen, chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES). “We’re not happy about it.”

After One World applied, the community of Lindenhurst rejected the idea during a public hearing period that ended on August 16. But following procedure, the DEC has until 90 days after that date to review the application and make a decision.

With just about a month remaining until the deadline, community leaders in Queens are worried the DEC will make the wrong choice and plan to meet with agency officials to work towards a solution.

“The potential expansion of the One World Recycling Center in Lindenhurst raises numerous concerns,” said Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi. “I have signed onto a letter with my colleagues to the Department of Environmental Conservation urging them to deny this expansion, and I am having conversations with the DEC about this specific proposal.”

The trains wake up residents when they move through the night and some sit on tracks for hours with uncovered cars, which cause the stench of garbage to flow through the community, say locals.

The trains, which are owned by the state and licensed to New York and Atlantic, are outdated and discharge pollutants, according to area leaders. Earlier this year Hevesi, along with various elected officials, was able to get the state government to allocate nearly $3 million to retrofit a new engine for one of 11 locomotives, which will reduce the impact of gases in the community.

But the problem of garbage traveling through these communities has annoyed residents for years. It stems from the state increasing rail usage to cut down on truck transportation of garbage to relieve vehicle traffic and emissions.

“Everyone wants to get the trucks off the road, but it’s taking a problem from one area, mitigating it, and putting it in another area,” said Glendale resident Thomas Murawski. “You’re maybe solving part of the problem, but you’re not solving the whole problem.”

While they don’t want the One World expansion, CURES also wants the train cars covered to prevent the smell and hopes the state upgrades all the trains to new engines to cut down on pollutants.

“It’s not a matter of them being our enemies,” Parisen said. “If rail is the way of the future we want them to be responsible.”

Numerous emails and calls were made to One World Recycling but a company representative failed to reply.



Glendale, Middle Village still dealing with train noise, pollution

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

After years of drawing attention to the issue, Glendale and Middle Village residents say they are still waiting on promises from public officials to fix trains that disturb and pollute their neighborhoods.

Residents say the trains loaded with garbage and construction debris wake people up on their way through Queens to a town upstate. They add that the railroad cars make screeching sounds and idle behind houses while the engines emit harmful gases from diesel fuels.

The MTA-owned trains are leased to companies including CSX and New York and Atlantic Railway.

At the end of March, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi was able to allocate $3 million from the state budget towards updating the engines. Retrofitting the trains in question, which were designed in accordance with 1970s standards, will significantly reduce the impact of gases in the community.

“We are still in the process of working with the MTA and we’ll see how that is going play out,” said Alex Schnell, chief of staff to the assemblymember.

Congressmember Grace Meng, who toured the Fresh Pond Rail Yard in Glendale in April to learn about the problem, wrote a letter to the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies concerning the federal budget. She asked for $30 million from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) to retrofit old trains with the new engines.

“This level of funding would help alleviate the significant unmet demand and would assist in upgrading inefficiencies,” Meng said in the letter.

As of press time, Meng had not received a response.

For residents like Anthony Pedalino, elected officials’ actions to date have not been fast enough.

With the open car locomotives running below ground level, Pedalino and others suggested that a tunnel be built or adequate covers set up for the cars to stop the leak of foul smells.

“That protection is the least they can do,” Pedalino said.

He sends out emails to a number of public officials almost daily to remind them about the issue.

“I think locomotives with new engines are a big plus and will cut down on a significant amount of pollution. This is a wonderful start,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5. “I can understand people being upset, even though that’s some good news.”