Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 30 May 2012 00:00
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is calling on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to launch a safety investigation into uncovered freight train cars transporting loose debris on Long Island Rail Road tracks after being prompted to take action after reading the Mineola American May 9 cover story. The senator revealed in a press conference on May 21 that he then sent a letter to the FRA calling for a mandate that trains carrying rubble through densely populated communities be properly covered.
Mineola resident Dennis Walsh, of Albertson Place, was sitting on his porch recently when he noticed freight trains speeding by his backyard. He was shocked.
“I couldn’t get over seeing them roll by uncovered,” Walsh stated, while adjusting his hat to block the rain. “I grabbed my ladder and cell phone and started snapping pictures.”
The tracks run adjacent to Birchwood Court on Roslyn Road with about 40 garages and parking spaces located on the property. Two cars have been damaged by debris falling onto property off these open train cars, according to Walsh.
“I’ve lived here for 25 years and seen these cars go by,” Walsh stated. “I took the photos because people aren’t going to believe you without proof…and I got the proof.”
Birchwood Court Homeowners Association Board President Louis Camacho said one of the pieces of debris fell and impaled the front window of a car. His biggest concern is the safety of the residents.
“I care a lot about what goes on here,” Camacho said, waving a piece of debris. “I live here and I see these trains barreling through here and when I heard about it, I knew exactly what it was. Cars have been damaged and people nearly injured.”
Birchwood Court resident Russell Sutherland revealed that he’s witnessed freight cars passing through during peak hours, which violates the terms of the contract that states freight cars can only travel on LIRR tracks on off-peak hours.
“This is totally unsafe,” Sutherland stated. “I can’t understand why the cars would be uncovered. Is the railway that broke?”
In a statement released last Monday, the FRA said it would look into the matter. “We are looking into reports that debris has been falling from uncovered freight cars along the Long Island Rail Road, and we will take all appropriate action to ensure the highest standards of safety along our nation’s railways,” the statement read.
The LIRR has had a lease with New York and Atlantic Railways since 1997, allowing the company to haul freight on the tracks mainly during off-peak times. Officials did not respond to return calls for comment.
“Uncovered freight trains are wreaking havoc on this neighborhood, creating what seems to be a downpour of scrap metals and loose debris that put life and limb at risk in this neighborhood and for the hundreds of thousands of people who commute on the Long Island Rail Road every day,” Schumer stated. “In a densely populated area, you cannot have an uncovered freight train where debris can be lost and hit cars, homes and God forbid, people.”