Millions of dollars in the state budget that was just given the go-ahead this week are expected to help make Queens residents’ lives a whole lot cleaner, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and a coalition of elected officials, civic leaders and the New York League of Conservation Voters, announced this week.
The 2014-15 state budget, approved by lawmakers Monday, includes $3 million to continue a program aimed at overhauling antiquated, polluting state-owned freight locomotives, Hevesi said.
The new funding comes in addition to a $3 million reappropriation from the 2013 state budget that launched the pilot sustainability project. The $6 million in total is expected to begin realizing environmental benefits this year, with the first retrofitted locomotive planned to be on-line by this December.
The funding addresses an 11-car fleet, which currently run on old engines spewing toxic emissions consistent with standards set by the federal government decades ago in the 1970s, operate through Queens – including neighborhoods like Middle Village and Maspeth – Brooklyn and Long Island, carrying waste and cargo near residents’ backyards, schools, parks and beaches. These trash trains have caused a litany of problems for the neighborhoods through which they travel, from residents being unable to open their windows during the summer because of the stench to children having issues with asthma.
“With this additional state funding, and the first overhauled freight locomotive set to come on-line later this year, it is encouraging that great strides are being made to fight for, and protect, the health of countless families in the boroughs of New York and on Long Island,” Hevesi said.
Hevesi stressed that the millions of dollars was secured following bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate, as well as from the efforts of New York League of Conservation Voters and activists in the Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions.
“This funding will help clean the air and improve the quality of life for the countless residents who live near freight railways,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the NYLCV.
CURES Chairperson Mary Parisen agreed.
“Our vision of cleaner, quieter locomotives for the health and welfare of our neighborhoods is coming to fruition,” Parisen said. “We are elated with the acknowledgement for these necessary upgrades.”
A bevy of elected officials threw their support behind the news, including U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).
“The allocation of these vital funds is grew news in our fight against pollution, as well as our efforts to improve air quality and better protect the environment,” Meng said. “It is my hope that this money, and possible funding from the federal [Diesel Emissions Reduction Act] program, will move us further down the road in our efforts to reduce harmful diesel emissions, and improve quality of life in our borough.”