Changes made, residents still upset
Pictured (left to right) are Hector Garcia, director of external relations for the LIRR; Philip Eng, LIRR president; councilman Neil Foley, and state Sen. Monica Martinez at an open forum for residents concerned with the railroad storage yard in Blue Point.

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Changes made, residents still upset

Story By: GLENN ROHRBACKER
5/30/2019


Residents still feel the Blue Point LIRR storage yard is out of place on Park Street despite few changes made

Blue Point residents are continuing to voice their disdain at the Long Island Rail Road for utilizing a space in their hometown as a storage yard. The space, owned by the railroad as a former station site, began seeing increased traffic earlier this year due to the need for staging of a signaling project from Babylon to Patchogue. After a first meeting in April with LIRR staff, residents were able to voice their concerns directly to its president, Philip Eng. 

“None of us thought we would live in an industrial area with a work yard,” Kathleen Young, a resident of the Springhorn condominium complex, told Eng.

The main point that has been focused on by residents and their elected officials is that the yard operates in a tight residential area. To the north are homes, to the south are condos, and to the west is an elementary school, fire department and library. Residents are concerned with the safety of students, many who walk to school with parents or are dropped off by someone. There have been 18-wheeler trucks trying to maneuver the tight Blue Point roads, some which barely handle two regular-sized vehicles passing one another. The trucks also can’t come directly from Montauk Highway, which forces them to use residential streets.

On top of the visuals of trucks and the risks of having them around children, there is the smell. Residents have reported smoke coming from the yard and are concerned with the pesticides that are being used to handle vegetation. The pesticide is a Roundup plant control that is considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. There is also concern with the tar smell from the ties, which is directly behind homes. And the idling trucks are also forcing residents to walk through exhaust fumes with their children as they walk them to school. 

“It amazes me that some of my students are walking through these [smells],” said Tim Hearney, superintendent of the Bayport-Blue Point School District.

Eng said the trucks are actually hired by the contractors, which the railroad has hired for certain projects, therefore not directly under their authority. But he said he has informed these vendors that if trucks are idling or in the work zone at an unauthorized time, they would not be able to use that trucking company any longer. Further, if it continues, the vendor could lose their contract altogether.

“If anyone violates it, the trucks are gone,” he said.

Many residents don’t want to accept anything less than the LIRR relocating to another area. Eng repeated that there were no other yard spaces available, and that the increase in workload has caused all available space to fill. State Sen. Monica Martinez suggested moving the site to Bellport, near the train station, where there is less direct contact with homes.

With the investments the railroad is making in the Blue Point area, residents are now more concerned that it means they won’t leave. Eng doesn’t have any plans for the yard after the three years when the signaling project would take place, and said it would likely return close to normal, with only routine maintenance activities. He added that it was possible that another project could return in the future. 

While residents did get some answers, there are many more they are still looking for. Eng said he plans to return to the community with additional plans at a later time.