Thursday, March 19, 2009

Resident Seeks Relief from LIRR Noise

By Conor Greene

Tired of constantly being subjected to blaring horns from trains passing by on the LIRR tracks behind his apartment, a Forest Hills resident has turned to the local community board for help.

Russ Gundlach, who lives in a fifth-floor unit in the Tennis View Apartments building along Burns Street, approached Community Board 6 last week with a petition from residents asking for help in convincing the Long Island Railroad to rebuild a wall that was demolished in October.

The problem began in October 2007 when the LIRR cut down a number of large, healthy trees, many at least 80 years old, that had served to block some of the noise coming from the tracks. The situation was exacerbated last September, when the railroad removed an eight-foot wall at the top of the embankment near the tracks along Burns Street. While the wall wasn’t built as a sound barrier, it served that purpose and its removal has made noise from the tracks much louder for nearby residents, said Gundlach.

“It’s very disconcerting to have an outside force or entity so close to your property that pretty much feels it can do whatever it wants without consulting the neighborhood,” he said. “We’re always reacting to what they do instead of giving our input… It’s devastating, the noise, vibrating and sparks.”

According to an LIRR spokesman, the wall along Burns Street was removed “after an inspection determined it was unsafe and could not be rebuilt.” The spokesman, Salvatore Arena, noted that while it isn’t clear why the wall was built in the first place, “it was never intended as a sound barrier and the LIRR has no plans to replace it.”

Regarding the cutting of trees, which helped block both noise from passing trains and the view of the tracks, Arena said the agency is “involved in ongoing discussions with the community about landscaping the area.” In the meantime, the LIRR “is doing everything possible to reduce the use of train horns and their decibel level without compromising safety.” Those efforts include a recent amendment to the LIRR’s operating rules to reduce horn use and installation of a muffling-type device on its M-7 trains.

Gundlach said that residents had been under the impression that the wall would be replaced, as the LIRR told them that work must be completed before the area is landscaped. However, they found out in October that the wall wouldn’t be replaced. “It’s been going on for over six months, and I cannot get used to this,” he said. “I certainly got used to the noise for the past nine years [before the wall was removed] and it didn’t bother me.”

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Queens, Brooklyn) said in a statement that a sound barrier should be installed along the tracks. “The LIRR has long been an uneasy neighbor to the residents of Forest Hills Gardens. We need a hearty sound barrier where the crumbling wall once stood.”

For Gundlach, the situation has left him unable to find peace and quiet in his own home. “I’m having a hard time justifying staying there, but the problem is I truly love my apartment,” said Gundlach, who dreamed of living in the Gardens while growing up in Woodside. “It was always like a fairytale land, always a place I wanted to live. The Gardens allowed me to buy something and be pretty much assured it wasn’t going to change.”

Noise from trains passing through Forest Hills has become a problem since the Long Island Railroad removed trees and a wall from an embankment along Burns Street, according to a resident. The Forum Newsgroup/photos courtesy of RUSS GUNDLACH

37 comments:

levon50 said...

The LIRR is a great means of transportation, however for the years it has been running along the houses has caused many a major discomfort. I remember visiting my cousin since 1970's where the entire house was in a eartquake mode:))

She complains to this day that bulbs keep buring from the vibration of LIRR. As far as the sound I wish there was a study earlier done as far as to sound and noise levels before the walls were taken down. Does it realy make a major differance with or without the wall I sure like to know. I am sure with modern times LIRR can get a much quiter trains, looking at the Montreal trains running on rubber filled tires I am sure LIRR can learn and improve alot.

Anonymous said...

The LIRR has bullied us long enough. They said they were going to prune the trees, but chopped them down. They took down the wall, promised to replace it, and now are reneging.
The LIRR has been notorious. Just read the news and remember the millions squandered.
I am a monthly commuter and I pay with ATM card at the vending machine. I was debited twice in a row, and LIRR REFUSED TO REFUND IT TO ME. THEY HAVE overcharged others also. Even after submitting paperwork, my bank still had to intervene.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason the parties involved here cannot come to a compromise. As a FHG resident, the train noise has become a nuisance and the LIRR can act to improve the quality of life of so many in the area. To refuse to do so is bad policy and bad business. It's time for people to work together to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

Queens Woman said...

Why now? Who paid? Wonder why the LIRR after so many years of neglect of the growth along their tracks decided in 2007 to sub-contract gangs of lumbermen? LIRR gave track safety as the reason for the radical clearing. Where did the money come from? LIRR coffers or was it public funds missused for such a destructive deed? The Long Island Rail Road's deforestation of the Queens tracks has long range negative consequences on people and structures. Not only did the upper parts of the trees help with sight and sound but the roots of the trees contributed to controlling vibrations and soil loss.

Anonymous said...

I am a student that lives in Forest Hills Gardens. The increased volume from train noise since the wall has been taken down has made studying very difficult. The train noise is a distraction that is difficult to cope with. The noise was at acceptable levels before the wall was removed. I can only hope that the LIRR will replace it soon.

manfred109 said...

In this day and age, when countries can send people into space, it's difficult to accept that a sound barrier cannot be built to reduce the noise these trains make while travelling through this residential neighborhood. Sounds to me like the problem really is that the LIRR doesn't want to spend money on projects which will not add to its bottom line. Come on, LIRR, spend a few dollars and have a sound barrier constructed. Be a good neighbor instead of a big bully! Incidently, a sound barrier will also prevent people from crossing the tracks and possibly being killed by one of your trains; if that were to happen, the ensuing lawsuit would cost you much more than the sound barrier.

Kathryn Mets said...

My friend from Homeland Security called me today at 6 Burns Street today. LIRR went by while we were on the phone. He said, "Is that a train? It sounds as if it is right here! It was never so loud before."
The LIRR tracks run along Burns Street, right across from the apartment building. Noise level has been maddening since the trees were taken down and the wall demolished.

Anonymous said...

It truly boggles my mind that the LIRR is getting away with cutting down all those healthy trees. I was under the impression that you needed approval to cut any trees down in the city, and even still, were required to replace them.
Everyone is aware of the health impact of noise pollution, and since the trees and the wall came down, the noise level has risen dramatically.
Forest Hills Gardens is a beautiful community, and the LIRR is a great convenience to the residents, however until this situation is resolved, I will not be travelling on the LIRR.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why they can't build another fence or plant some trees, for heaven's sake. What's up with that?

CLIFF said...

I live in 4 Dartmouth St a block away from the
LIRR tracks. After the trees were cut down & the
wall taken down the noise & vibrations STARTED!
Three cracks appeared in the walls of my apartment,
the glasses & dishes are rattling in the kitchen
cabinets all the time!
I'm afraid of what the vibrations will do to the
foundation of our almost 100 year old building !

Anonymous said...

If the Long Island railroad's actions were above board why then did they feel it necessary to enter the community under false pretenses in both instances. If they were smart enough to figure out that the community probably would have been up in arms to prevent those actions before they took place why did they not deal better with the outrage once they clear cut the trees and demolished the wall that blocked the noise? I will leave you with this now famous quote that seems some how apropos here "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, it's probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. It fool me. We can't get fooled again." I never thought that one would come in handy;-)

Anonymous said...

The removal of the trees and the wall on Burns St. has made quite an impact on the noise level in the area. I certainly hope the wall is replaced in the near future.

Anonymous said...

I don't live in this section. But for several years I have been noticing the changes and in fact was very surprised that the Cord Mayer community did not react. The problem is not so much the size of the homes. If they are three storeys high, then that should be ok. The size should also not be a problem. There were quite substantial houses there before. And the new residents' purpose of housing extended families is quite admirable.
What brought about the disintegration of a uniform neighbourhood is the total disregard for the conformity of building styles. While most of the homes used to be in mock-tudor style with red brick or shingled facades, now is a mish-mash of styles. The houses are mostly built of pale yellow brick in a style more akin to European city dwellings. Many also do not have any greenery around them. The earth is pawed all around the house.
The residents should have put their foot down and demanded a more uniform style of building. But since they did not, it makes no sense to insist on size (as long as it's not a multiple dwelling). The area has lost its uniform character. The only thing left, is to demand that every house have some green area in the front.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in this location for nearly 15 years, overlooking the area that lost the wall and so many trees. The noise level has increased substantially, along with the night-time electrical arcing.

The trees and the wall provided a significant buffer. The loss of the trees and the wall has a material negative impact.

It is a mystery why the LIRR did this, particularly after responding to community requests to rehabilitate the Forest Hills Station.

Replacing the wall, if nothing else, would reduce noise along with the electrical light-show. This is particularly true for the arcs thrown off at night by West-bound trains pulling into the station.

We can hope that the 'good neighbor' side of the LIRR can be approached for a reasonable remedy.

Anonymous said...

I have moved to Gardens last year and it is still very disturbing to hear the noise from the train. It affects my sleep and relaxing time at the evening. I can feel vibration going through my whole body when the train passes. I wonder now, why have I bought appartment here? I am also supprised that it is so difficult to put some sound proving wall to lower the noise. I hope that as a coummunity we will be heard and LIRR will respond appropriately to our concerns.

Anonymous said...

I have lived on Burns Street overlooking the LIRR for 35 years. It took more than five years of unremitting negotiation and community and political pressure to achieve the historic (thankfully) restoration of the Forest Hills Garden Station.

Fact: the LIRR owns the land on the embankment down to the present location of the wrought iron fence which runs along Burns Street from Tennis Place westward. When the tree removal began within that area I knew the trees were goners no matter what the LIRR said about "pruning." It is their property and they do what they want on and to their property unless forced by herculean community efforts supported by very aggressive political pressure, which had to be exerted for years, as mentioned above.

I signed the recent petition requesting that the LIRR address the noise/vibration situation, although decades of experience leads me to believe that, in this relatively small matter (compared with the project of station reconstruction)it is highly unlikely that the LIRR will spend one penny to rectify either the sound condition, or to provide additional landscaping.

I would love to be wrong.

Anonymous said...

The LIRR promised to replace many of the trees they cut down this past year. Not only have those not been replace but the wall has been taken too. I live directly across from this and its very hurtful after living in this beautiful neighborhood for years. Just a small compromise and replacement of some trees to block noise and view would be a welcome solution!

Anonymous said...

I watched as beautiful, well-maintained, old trees and landscapes were decimated by the Long Island Rail Road. Not only did they destroy the beauty and serenity of one of Queens oldest and most well-kept communities, but also their actions left not a leaf to cover the distressing sights and sounds of a very noisy railroad. Many communities have tired to reach out to the LIRR to help resolve the problems that exist along their tracks, but the LIRR has done little to ameliorate these problems. It is time for our elected officials to address the LIRR’s lack of concern for our neighborhoods. They must help to bring communities and the LIRR together to find solutions to these very disturbing quality of life issues.

Anonymous said...

Ever since I moved to Forest Hills 25 years ago LIRR has been the biggest source of discomfort along Burns Street.They seem completely unscrupulous about vandalizing neighborhoods. Shame on LIRR!! Where are our municipal and state representatives?

Anonymous said...

It is time for the LIRR to take responsibility for its actions in removing all those beautiful trees and the sound barrier wall along Burns Street and immediately begin the replacement of both the trees and the wall. They have unilaterally destroyed the value of the homes on Burns Street by the unsightly barren hill of dirt.

The appliances in my kitchen have been slowly moving from all the vibrating from the railroad.

Our state and local officials need to vigorously pursue the LIRR to do the right thing!

Anonymous said...

my friends apartment across the street is filled with an awful racket and he complains all the time

Anonymous said...

As a resident of 6 Burns Street I am deeply troubled by the removal of the trees and the wall by the LIRR. The removal of the trees was a travesty and never should have happened. The noise is terrible and the view without the trees and the wall is horrible. Forest Hills Gardens is the most beautiful neighborhood and the way it looks now is just awful. I implore the LIRR to replace the wall and the trees as soon as possible because we are all suffering terribly. Please do the RIGHT thing, as right away.

Anonymous said...

As a resident of FHG, I am concerned that these actions threaten to disrupt the very essence of our community. I also am concerned about the seeming dispartiy in treatment. Our small strip of track remains bare while other nearby strips of track remain covered with trees and/or other barriers.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in one of the buildings that face the tracks since 1991. The noise level from the trains, which never used to bother me, has become all but unbearable since they took the trees and wall down. It wakes me a half-dozen times every night. Not to mention the fact that the view is now hideous because the railroad chopped down those lovely trees.
All that, and I can't even take the LIRR to work any more because the trains are so crowded -- they replaced a bunch of seats in each car with giant bathrooms, so now it's not just standing room only, but jam-packed-standing-room only. I never thought I'd see the day when the subway was the more comfortable and relaxing ride - but it is. And it's cheaper, too.

Anonymous said...

The whole effort by the LIRR to remove these trees is a slap in the face to Mayor Bloomberg and his initiative for a greener New York with one million trees. Then to refuse to rebuild the wall and re-plant the trees is a slap in the face to everyone in the community. Is this how a responsible "public" entity should behave?

Anonymous said...

I live at 4 Dartmouth and it seems our complaints to both the LIRR and efforts to have our local politicians help have thus far been to no avail. This is a both a health issue as well as a quality of life issue. The noise levels and vibrations are damaging me and my apartment.

Anonymous said...

Good Luck Russ! Thanks for fighting the fight!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The devastation caused by the trees being removed was a sin. The reason given was that the leaves from the trees were affecting the breaking of the trains at the Forest Hills Station. HOwever, for as long as I have lived at 6 Burns Street the LIRR NEVER removed the years of dead leaves that were near the tracks. Then to add insult to injury the wall was torn down.
Maybe we should also remind the LIRR of the time, during an ice storm, when the ice flew through the opening in the wall and nearly killed a young womon on the first floor of 6 Burns Street. The ice went right through the windows in the living room of this apartment.
It's bad enough to hear the blast of horns from Yellowstone to Forest Hills, But before there was some muting of the noise with the wall. Once the wall was installed...it is now a oart of the neighborhood. Like emmenent domain. LIRR please put back the wall. You have denuded the neighborhood with malice of fore thought and with no regard to your riders or neighbors.....

Anonymous said...

the LIRR is run by dopes, 90% of their employees were taking early disability and taking on new jobs, now the fares are being jacked up 27%...they can't even manage their own house...keep on hitting your politicians, weiner, katz, schumer and gillibrand...they need our votes and support...heck their is alot of laid off people that would take an assignment to either build a wall, plant trees or have some physcist come up with a way to propel the sound

Anonymous said...

What LIRR has done is a disgrace . I moved into 6 Burns Street 8 months before it became hell living there. When I originally got there the noise from the trains had been largely muffled by the trees & the wall acted as a solid sound barrier. LIRR chopped the trees down under false pretences(they will be replaced) but further insulted our intelligence claiming that the leaves falling from the trees made it slippery dangerous for the trains. I highly doubt it but even if that were the case there is a simple solution:slow down. Don't we walk more carefully when there there is slow or ice on the street ?. LIRR destroyed the trees & the surrounding vegetation with total disregard to the the environment. As to the rational that the railroad has given for destroying the wall, that it could fall down on the tracks, it's so preposterous that it's laughable: the height of the wall is materially less than the distance of the wall from the tracks, unless for some inexplicable reason the bricks from the wall start to fly.

The taken down of the wall has made a beautiful residential area look like an industrial zone. In addition,the increased vibrations from the LIRR will be destroying the very integrity of the foundation of the buildings in the neighborhood. The microwave on the table kitchen vibrates when the express trains pass &, by the way for you animal lovers ,my little puppy helps with fear.

But, all what we residents are demanding is what every human being is entitled in a civilized society :sleep. Lack of sleep makes us all a lot more irritable & less productive at work because we've lost our deep sleep (REM). Surely this is a health hazard.

The demand to the LIRR is simple: give us our wall back.

Anonymous

Anonymous said...

A combination of noise and vibration has become a way of life since the barrier wall has been removed, along with the trees that helped condense the sound. To better understand the amount of stress and effect these changes have produced one has only to look at the walls of my apartment to realize just how horrific and destructive this has been on the every indignity of the building. Indeed, some of the same stress creaks can be found in the stairwells. The issue at this point is not just the discomfort because of noise, but also that of safety to the community at large.

Anonymous said...

How about switching to rubber wheels. They charge enough for riding the train..they should have enough money. One year they say they have a surplus and then when something needs to be done they say they are running in the red and have to raise the rates!

Anonymous said...

For a couple of years before the trees and wall came down next to the Forest Hills station of the LIRR, I never felt any vibration or heard anything in my apartment even though my apartment is located in the first floor in the back of the 6 Burns street building. Now, I can say I can feel a train approaching the building with my feet and hear and see my windows vibrate if they are not closed properly and late and night I can hear the trains passing by. This can not even be compared to what my fellow neighbors that live and face Burns street are going through. The LIRR needs to know the impact their decisions make when they disregard other people's quality of life.

Anonymous said...

The LIRR has arrogantly and inappropriately chopped down most all the trees along its path on Burns St. (FHG being an historic area) and as a result not only the esthetics of the community been compromised but also the health, safety and property values of residents who live across from the eyesore they have created. Safety, they say, for their passengers - what about the the residents who now, without a buffer of trees and wall, have to live in a fishbowl across the street and are subjected multiple times a day to the greatly increased pollution (visual and physical) every time a train goes by that was absorbed by the greenery and wall.
Promises of evergreens to replace the trees (some of which stood for 80+ yrs. and apparently didn't cause a problem until now) have so far gone unfulfilled. All this especially odd in a time when Mayor Bloomberg has touted the planting of a million trees. Time for the politicians to get involved.
As it is, the LIRR, by unimaginatively and thoughtlessly implementing this drastic solution to a perceived problem has unnecessarily created an enormous blight on a beautiful community and its residents for years to come.

Anonymous said...

The MTA has no consideration for their neighbors. They recently cut the trees down and removed a wall that acted as a barrier between their trains and the apartment buildings near them. They should be required to place a sound barrier similar to those found on highways and replace the trees they removed.

Anonymous said...

Annoymous-I have been a resident for the past 9 years and I have an apt.in the courtyard-which is in the back of the building. I have seen an increas in the noise and vibrational level since the trees were cut down. I can only imagine what my neighbors in the front of the building are experiencing in terms of noise. The LIRR needs to address this problem by replacing the wall or coming up with a sound barrier that will reduce the noise and makes good financial sense in ensuring that "The Gardens" will continue to be a desirable place to live.

Anonymous said...

Maybe FHG Gardens residents will make progress on this if they also lobby for and work with the rest of the community: those on the north side of the tracks and the moms along the playground. How about a wall of shrubs to cut the noise?