BY JAMES FARRELL
Bayside residents living adjacent to a noisy rail yard can expect a reprieve for at least 18 months, according to the Long Island Rail Road.
As the Queens Tribune has previously reported, the rail yard, located between 215th Street and 220th Street along the LIRR’s Port Washington line, has long been a cause of concern for neighbors, who complained at this month’s Community Board 11 meeting that the site was home to idling engines that make noise deep into the night, foul smells, garbage and inappropriate behavior from workers.
But according to the LIRR, the track work project—which involved resurfacing the tracks along the Port Washington line between Bayside and Great Neck—wrapped up on Feb. 26. This should result in a dramatic decrease in noise, and no large-scale construction projects will take place for at least 18 months, according to LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan.
Some residents, however, don’t foresee a permanent solution.
James Lollo, who lives on the north side of the tracks, is one of many neighbors who have complained that the track maintenance machinery is left idling for hours, sometimes until as late as 2 a.m.—and sometimes, he says, the machinery is not even used. The noise from the engines keeps him and other neighbors up through the night.
“The windows shake and you actually pulsate,” he said.
The LIRR told the Queens Tribune earlier this month that the machinery needs to idle for its hydraulic systems to warm up.
Lollo has argued that the site should be moved, claiming that a residential neighborhood is an inappropriate location. He is not confident that the completion of the track work will lead to long-term improvements. The idling engines have been an occasional problem in the past few years, worsening in recent months, he said, presumably due to the track work project. He sent a letter to former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman in 1996 after an idling engine had been left for several days straight.
“Eighteen months, they’ll be back again and our lives will be hell,” he said. “It’s never going to end.”
Other residents have other problems beyond the noise.
Karen DiGiacomo lives just beside the site, next to the gates through which the workers enter and exit. Aside from the sound, DiGiacomo said that she feels the vehicles that move in and out of the property at the entrance on her block create safety hazards. She added that the site is also a “constant mess” and a “shantytown.” Just over the fence surrounding her front yard, there was some metal debris between construction trailers erected less than 10 feet from her property.
“They have turned this absolutely into a dumpsite,” she said. “My concern is that there’s nothing temporary about this.”
And Marie McCann lives down the block from the entrance on 217th Street. Her concern is that the gates to the property are often left open, which she sees as a safety hazard.
Community members are currently collecting petitions asking that the site be moved.
Donovan explained that the track work project had led to an uptick in noise at the yard. He admitted that there is still activity taking place as well as other issues with community members that should be addressed. However, he said that with the project done, overnight work should significantly decline.
“The track work project wrapped up… which should result in a dramatic reduction in noise,” he said. “However, we’re committed to continuing to evaluate the yard’s operations in order to minimize noise and other issues that have been raised by the community.”
DiGiacomo had previously been upset by the foul language and behavior of the workers at the site, but said that there has been a significant improvement in recent weeks.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, jfarrell @queenstribune.com or @farrellj329.