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Civic vies for grant to study air quality

Environmental advocates are pushing for an air quality survey of the neighborhood surrounding the Fresh Pond rail terminal. Photo courtesy Bob Holden
TimesLedger Newspapers

A group seeking solutions to railroad pollution is up for an environmental award — one that could fast track its hopes for an air-quality survey.

Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions submitted an application to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for an Environmental Excellence Award. Mary Parisen, co-chairwoman of CURES, said the award is a crucial next step in securing a grant to examine the air quality around the Fresh Pond rail terminal in Middle Village.

“Garbage traffic on the rails cuts right through a residential area in Middle Village,” said Parisen. “Besides excessive noise, residents have to deal with potential health risks associated with open garbage cars.”

CURES received backing from a host of Queens elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village), state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and state Assembly members Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven).

“Our communities surround Fresh Pond Yards — the only entry and egress point for freight rail on Long Island. For years we have had to deal with nuisances and serious health risks,” Miller said. “They [CURES] facilitated forums for education and discussion of problems and solutions.”

CURES is a coalition of 14 civic associations in Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Glendale, Elmhurst, Woodside, Forest Hills and Woodhaven.

The grant sought by CURES would partner the group with the Queens College Center for the Biology of Natural Systems to perform baseline air quality monitoring around the Fresh Pond rail terminal. The monitoring strategy would place equipment at sites around Fresh Pond and the data collected would be compared with air quality results in other areas of the city.

The potential for air pollution around the terminal is a concern that area residents have raised in recent months — along with complaints about loud freight trains rolling in at all hours of the morning and night.

Edward Cataldo, a Middle Village resident whose backyard faces the tracks, said the neighborhood needs sound barriers and a covered track.

“We are taking everyone’s garbage, noise and pollution,” Cataldo said. “We also risk a loss of property values.”

In April, a number of residents joined Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) in calling for rail companies to stop performing yard activities on tracks in residential neighborhoods. Hevesi followed by drafting a letter to the state DEC, asking for a review of Waste Management of New York’s application to expand a waste transfer station on Review Avenue in Maspeth.

According to Hevesi, the expansion of the Review Avenue waste transfer station would bring more garbage through parts of Middle Village already inundated with the smell and noise of idling garbage trains.

CURES expects to hear in June whether or not it will receive a grant for an air quality survey.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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