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Noise from Idling LIRR Trains is Off the Rails in LIC, Residents Say

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer says noise complaints have increased as new housing developments keep popping up around the neighborhood
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer says noise complaints have increased as new housing developments keep popping up around the neighborhood
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

HUNTERS POINT — Noise from trains idling in the Hunters Point train yard is destroying the quality of life in the increasingly residential area, which is dotted with $1 million apartments, neighbors say.

Despite the Long Island Rail Road’s promises to alleviate the problem, the disruptive noise continues to be an issue, especially for people living in condominiums along Borden Avenue, say elected officials and residents.

The condos, directly across the street from the Long Island City train station began to pop up starting in 2007. Some units cost more than $1 million.  

Branko Kolbek, who has lived in one of the buildings since 2009, acknowledged that he had been aware of noise coming from the yard before he bought his home and moved in.

“But not until you spend enough time in the neighborhood, do you really get a full sense of what’s going on here,” said Kolbek, 29. “During the week, you have to keep the windows closed.” 

He said instead of spending time in the building’s outdoor communal areas, he must walk to a nearby park to avoid the noise.

The idling trains wake him up in the morning, sometimes as early as 6:30 a.m., and then noise intensifies in the afternoon, between 3 and 6 p.m.

Another resident, Alex Zimmerman, called it an “environmental issue,” and added he is worried about his daughter's health. “The fumes are released all day long,” 

he noted.

"Sometimes you can't even talk on the phone," said Amanda Miller, who lives in one of the buildings.

According to residents, the noise is so loud that it causes the buildings to vibrate.

The issue has been raised by various elected officials, most recently by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the area. 

“We have asked the LIRR to move these trains, to turn the engines off, to stop the idling and come up with ways to decrease the sound of these engines,” Van Bramer said. 

The LIRR has taken measures to address the issue and to reduce locomotive idling, according to spokesman Salvatore Arena. Equipment schedules in the yard have been revised, some locomotives have been shut down and idling trains have been moved as far away from Borden Avenue as possible, he said.

"It's an active rail yard in operation for more than 100 years, a station that services 10,000 customers every day and a transit center that plays a crucial role in the service we provide to our 80,000 daily customers," Arena said.

But residents and elected officials say those steps have not eliminated the problem and that they want to see long term solutions for the area, where more residential developments, and a school, are being built.

Sheila Lewandowski, a Community Board 2 member, and a resident who has lived in the area for 15 years, said the neighborhood is changing rapidly and LIRR “needs to progress and develop with it.”