Jun. 23, 2023 By Anthony Medina
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar alongside state Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. celebrated the passage of a bill that would require freight trains carrying waste to cover their cargo at the New York and Atlantic Railway location on 68-01 Otto Road in Glendale.
The assemblywoman held the event on Friday, June 23, with other local leaders as well as Mary Parisen Lavelle, chair of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) to urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the bill (A4928/S2022) into law.
“Our legislation takes a major step towards overseeing waste by the rail industry, which has expanded for 15 years,” Rajkumar said. “As the waste by rail industry booms, expanding by 35% every year, it is time to take action to protect the health of the people of New York and our precious environment.”
Rajkumar introduced the bill for the first time in February this year and it was passed in May. The bill fell stagnant in legislature for over seven years, seeing different sponsors throughout its life. Those who’ve advocated for long-term action say they’ve been waiting for a lot longer.
“It is with our deepest gratitude that we express our appreciation to both Assemblywoman Rajkumar and Senator Addabbo on their monumental accomplishment in getting state legislation passed to containerize waste on rail cars,” Lavelle said. “The victory we’re celebrating today belongs to them, it belongs to the residents, the civics, and Community Board Five. CURES has been working for the past 14 years to end this needless pollution in our neighborhoods, and in all neighborhoods, where this waste travels.”
Residents who live along the railway described the foul odors and general concern over the substances they were being exposed to by the uncovered waste freight.
William Gati, a CURES board member and member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, lives close to the railway. He recalled first trying to get the trains to change their commute schedules, to reduce the noise from the railway in the early morning hours. Recognizing the changes brought on by elected officials, Gati also said advocacy for bettering the railways will continue.
“This is just the beginning. I think we’ve established a formula and our next step and our next goal is to advocate for the tier four locomotives and to upgrade all the locomotives that are antiquated,” Gati said.
Addabbo also recalled sitting with constituents and smelling the odors that came from the railway first-hand, when starting out as a senator in 2009. He is also calling on Hochul to sign this legislation.
“Here we are on the cusp of really making an impact for our people, a direct impact, a direct result of constituents complaining, and if the governor wants to complete this picture-perfect way of how government should work, she should sign the bill,” Addabbo said.