Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 04 March 2011 00:00
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman announced last Wednesday, Feb. 23, that he had secured a commitment from the Long Island Rail Road for a full study of noise mitigation for a proposed LIRR project in Thomaston. The Congressman told the Great Neck Record that LIRR President Helena Williams agreed to launch a “comprehensive study of all materials that could best mitigate noise for residents of the Village of Thomaston, whose homes would run alongside the proposed extension of the LIRR’s pocket track, just east of the Great Neck station.”
After speaking with Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern,. who has serious issues over the noise and other intrusions on the quality of life of his residents and the residents of Great Neck at large, last Wednesday Congressman Ackerman met with Ms. Williams in his Bayside office. Following the meeting, the Congressman said that he had obtained an agreement with Ms. Williams, an agreement that promised that the LIRR “will examine all possibilities, and determine which materials would be the best sound absorbing buffer between the new extended track and nearby houses.” Congressman Ackerman said that this would “include everything from the density and height of foliage, the composition and height of a retaining wall, and a combination of both.”
Both the Congressman and Ms. Williams also reported on an agreement to conduct the study “as expeditiously as possible.”
In addition, according to the Congressman’s office and according to a spokesperson for Ms. Williams, the LIRR also guaranteed Congressman Ackerman that the lengthened pocket track would only be utilized during peak hours, and that no trains would be stored overnight.
“The residents of Thomaston who would be affected by the extension of the Great Neck pocket track deserve to be heard,” said Congressman Ackerman. “I thank Helena Williams for giving me the opportunity to express their concerns, and for understanding the unease of homeowners who would be impacted by this project. I look forward to the LIRR quickly completing its study so that the best course of action can be determined.”
Joseph Calderone, LIRR vice president for public affairs and marketing, added that the railroad plans to utilize over 300 pieces of vegetation and a retaining wall to mitigate noise in the area. The retaining wall will also be necessary to solve the drainage problems in the area.
“We are grateful to Congressman Ackerman for his assistance,” said Ms. Williams. “The LIRR is committed to working with the Great Neck community on mitigating any impacts of the proposed pocket track extension and Colonial Road Bridge replacement, including a study of sound absorbing materials that will be conducted as part of the environmental review process.” Ms. Williams also said that “The proposed pocket track extension will provide immediate benefits and improved service for the 43,000 customers who use the Port Washington branch each day.”
Congressman Ackerman told the Record that he had intervened with Ms. Williams after Mayor Stern contacted the Congressman about installing sound mitigation as part of the project. Congressman Ackerman also reported that he had consulted with Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender.
Mayor Stern, who has worked for years to try to get the LIRR to rebuild the Colonial Road Bridge in his village, is now wary of the new plans. He believes that the railroad has only now raised the possibility of repairing/rebuilding the bridge as a part of a larger project which would expand service and, in his opinion, adversely impact Great Neck residents with noise and traffic.
Mayor Stern is also concerned over the promise of public hearings. He told the Record that he fears such hearings would not be held locally, but in areas that are quite a distance from Great Neck. And the mayor is still seeking a “face-to-face” meeting with Helena Williams.
Congressman Ackerman said that he also plans to hold a meeting with local public officials and make the LIRR project findings public once completed.
The extension of the pocket track, a side track staging area for trains near the Great Neck station, is designed to give the LIRR capacity for service to Grand Central Terminal, set to begin in several years. The project, which would lengthen the existing pocket track by 1200 feet, also includes the replacement of Thomaston’s dangerously aged Colonial Road Bridge.