BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
With the N and Q trains passing by every few minutes, students from the Judge Charles J. Vallone School in Astoria have learned to raise their hands to put up the peace sign and wait until it passes, before continuing their learning.
Parents, students, teachers, State and local elected officials gathered in front of PS 85 on Dec. 17 to advocate against the frequent noise that comes from the elevated train tracks that are 50-feet across the street from the school.
Both State Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said it is possible for the City to implement noise relief barriers so the students will not have to stop their class time for 30-45 seconds every time a train passes, which is every two minutes during rush hour and every five minutes the rest of the day.
“Each time a student puts two fingers in the air and a lesson is put on hold, it represents the City’s failure to provide an adequate learning environment for these children,” Gianaris said.
Simotas said “students and teachers should never be forced to ‘get used to’ a chronic issue that detracts from the learning process.”
The rally, which was interrupted by more than 15 passing trains, was held to demand the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Dept. of Education to address the noise problems created by passing trains.
In a letter written to the DOE and the MTA on Dec. 9, Gianaris and Simotas called for noise abatement ideas such as soundproofing windows, addition of acoustic sound-absorbing tiles, installing rubber wheels on the trains, cushioning the rails with rubber pads and erecting a sound barrier between the platform and PS 85, among others.
They also want to see the noise level come down to 45 decibels from 90 decibels.
A United Federation of Teachers representative and a PS 85 teacher, Mary Najeddine, recounted some of the statements made by her students about the disruptive noise. One student said “every time we stop, we are wasting time.” She said a special needs student said “it sounds like there are giants fighting outside.”
Marge Feinberg, a DOE spokesperson, said this is a high performing school that received an A on its recent progress report and their classroom instruction is not being disturbed.
“Some classrooms have acoustic tiles. The first floor has five rooms with acoustic tiles facing the front of the building. The second floor has three rooms plus the auditorium facing the front of the building. The third floor has two rooms facing the front of the building. They are all facing the side of the building exposed to the train,” a spokesperson said.
Kevin Ortiz, a MTA spokesperson said the terminal switches for the Ditmars Boulevard station are located right by the school, making the noise issue a difficult fix. These switches are scheduled for replacement in the next Capital Plan, to take place in 2015-2019.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.