Residents who live along the train tracks in Middle Village have long complained of noise and odors emanating from the rails, though now locals say they’ve been infested with a new disturbance.
Over the past year, those who reside near the railroad tracks say they have experienced an increase in wildlife roaming city streets.
“Come 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the morning, you see what’s running around the neighborhood,” said Maspeth resident Tony Nunziato of the mostly nocturnal animals. “You’ll have every kind of animal down there. A lot of possum, skunks, rodents; it’s just a breeding ground.”
The influx of vermin have congregated near the tracks because of a lack of oversight by CSX, the company that runs the rails, residents said, leading to overgrown brush and litter from rail cars carrying construction debris, which they say is not securely sealed.
As of press time, CSX did not respond for comment.
“The problem with the railroads is they don’t really maintain their property. There are a lot of dumped tires down the tracks and as a result there is standing water. So that can bring West Nile virus,” said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, who added he’s battled with CSX for years to get them to clean up the properties.
Nunziato and Holden both mentioned that the neighboring All Faiths Cemetery was hit with a fine for standing water (which has since been dismissed), but the rail seems to go unregulated.
The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it is responding to each complaint of standing water by physically inspecting the reported site and treating it if necessary.
Holden said he has received more than a dozen calls this year complaining about the vermin influx. During the spring, the population of skunks near the tracks seemed to boom, he said, though he never personally saw one.
“I don’t see the skunks, but I certainly smell them. Every day I would pass the railroad and there was the skunk smell.” Holden said. “I grew up in the neighborhood, I’m here 60 years and I don’t remember seeing skunks ever, so it’s a little strange that we’re getting them now.”
Waste Management, which uses the rails to ship residential garbage to its facility in West Virginia, said that rail containers are lidded and sealed before they leave the transfer station and placed on the rail cars, preventing any trash from falling onto the tracks.
In Glendale, Otto Road, which also runs adjacent to railroad tracks, has not seen an increase in vermin, said Vincent Arcuri, chair of Community Board 5, adding that the area has actually had fewer raccoons than in years past, which he attributed to the unseasonable weather in the area.