Bayside residents have had enough of a yard the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has been using as a “temporary” staging site for overnight construction work on the Port Washington line for the at least the past six years.
Neighbors of the rail yard say they are often woken up several times a night by the work and loud diesel engines pulling in and out of the yard.
In addition to the noise, residents contend the site is being used to store flammable chemicals and other potentially hazardous materials.
“This is not a safe situation for any of us, it’s beyond inappropriate,” said Karen Digiacomo, who lives next door to the yard on 217th Street just south of 40th Avenue. “All of this has been done with complete disregard for us. We have been more than patient.”
Digiacomo said if the LIRR fails to take action, her and her neighbors have discussed filing a class action lawsuit.
Stephen Panagiotakis moved to his house on 218th Street next to the yard one year ago with his wife and two small sons. The overnight noise is a nuisance, he said, but so are the trucks entering and leaving the site all day long.
“There are trucks barreling down 40th Avenue,” he said.
Tony Avella, the Democratic nominee for City Council, said when he was last in office as a state senator in 2018 he spoke with LIRR president Phillip Eng about the issue.
“Eng promised to reduce activity, but now it’s worse than ever,” Avella said at a rally with residents on Monday calling on the LIRR to end activity at the site.
Assemblyman Ed Braunstein said he also sent a letter to Eng and the LIRR about the issue in 2017, suggesting the agency find an alternative site for the staging work. He suggested moving the operation to Willets Point, a far-less residential area mostly surrounded by Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. He followed up again in 2019.
“The people in this neighborhood have been tortured by the Long Island Railroad for long enough,” Braunstein said earlier this week. “People do not deserve to live like this.”
Representatives from the MTA and LIRR did not respond to requests for comment.
While the LIRR has been unresponsive in the past, Avella said this time around they might have an ace up their sleeve. On Sunday night, Avella said Senator Chuck Schumer called to congratulate him on his primary win, and asked if there was anything Schumer could help with.
Avella mentioned the issues at the Bayside yard, and Schumer said he would reach out to LIRR officials to discuss the matter. Avella said Schumer’s help is important because many train operations are overseen by federal agencies.
“Having the senate majority leader on your side is a big deal,” Avella said.