Poisonous lead paint is raining down from the 7 train

By Danielle Furfaro

Originally published by the New York Post on April 23, 2017

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Poisonous lead-paint chips are raining down on several Queens neighborhoods from elevated subway tracks, threatening the health of passersby, especially children, officials told The Post.

The decrepit No. 7 train trestle — which runs through Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Woodside — hasn’t been repainted in more than three decades, said City Councilman Daniel Dromm, leaving the flaking lead-based paint exposed.

“I’m surprised it’s still standing, that’s how rusted and bad the chipping of the paint is and the lead dust particles are flying through the air,” said Dromm, who grew up in the area.

The amount of lead in the paint is 224,000 parts per million — or 44 times more than what is considered safe, according to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which tested the falling paint chips at the behest of residents, Dromm and others.

Dr. Morri Markowitz, director of the Lead Poisoning Treatment and Prevention Program at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, was aghast to learn about the “extremely toxic” levels falling from the elevated tracks.

“I think the Department of Health or the city environmental agencies should get involved,” the concerned doctor said. “The lead paint could potentially be falling off of every elevated track throughout the city, not just on the 7 [line].”

Davon Lomax, director of the union, noted how heavily populated the area is.

“There are food carts, restaurants and schools under there, and the dust is getting everywhere, and it’s all breathable,’’ he said.

“This poses a threat to people who work and are passing underneath there every day.”

The dilapidated sections of the overhead tracks run from the 52nd street station to Junction Boulevard.

“It’s a poison, and kids shouldn’t be exposed to it,” said resident Samuel Rivera, 62, who lives in Jackson Heights. “The MTA should have repainted this by now, but they take their sweet time doing everything.”

Father-of-two Md Lokman Hossain said he is particularly worried about his 17-month-old son, noting that the tot could mistake a paint chip for food if it fell into his lap as they walked along Roosevelt Avenue.

“He could think it’s candy or something and swallow it, and it could lead to a big problem,’’ Hossain said.

Dromm said he has repeatedly pressed the MTA to take better care of the trestles, especially the area around the 74th Street/Broadway station.

“It has not been painted for at least 35 years that I can remember,” he said.

MTA officials said it has painted the trestles more recently than that, but they couldn’t say exactly when.

“No station on the 7 line, or the connecting infrastructure, has gone 35 years without being painted,” said agency spokeswoman Beth DeFalco. “We do annual joint inspections with NYCDEP of NYC Parks that are adjacent to our subway structures and quarterly inspections of other locations”

Markowitz called lead-based paints “indestructible, and recommended that those who live close to the tracks are at highest risk, and should seek out testing — as should MTA workers and commuters who spend time in the station.

Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities, hearing loss and seizures in children, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Read more here.

MTA Will Fund New Elmhurst LIRR Station

By Yvette Brown

Originally published in the Queens Tribune on January 14, 2016

The Long Island Rail Road is coming back to Elmhurst in the near future to help local residents get to and from the city in a more convenient way.

The reopening of the Elmhurst LIRR station, located on Broadway between Cornish and Whitney avenues, has been a goal of U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens), Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) since 2012. The station was shut down in 1985 because of the lack of usage.

The site of the former, and perhaps future, Elmhurst LIRR Station on Broadway in Elmhurst. File Photo courtesy of the Queens Tribune.

The elected officials had written letters to the LIRR president, held walk-throughs and conducted a ridership survey to get the process moving along, and it appears to have worked.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s 2015-2019 Capital Program, which includes $40 million and reconstructing the Elmhurst LIRR station, was approved in November 2015.

The first letter to the NYS Department of Transportation Commissioner and MTA Capital Program Review Board Chair Joan McDonald was to discuss the reopening and speak about how vitally important it is to ensure greater transportation options in the area. Crowley and Dromm initially wanted to reopen the LIRR station in January of 2012, which they both explained would not only create improved access to Midtown Manhattan, but also help create jobs in Elmhurst as well. Both elected officials led a walking tour of the site with officials from MTA to further explore the possibility of reopening the station in March of 2012. This was followed by a town hall with residents about a month later to discuss transportation issues within the community.

According to the 2010 Census, “Elmhurst is home to one of the most diverse populations in the country, a trend that will likely continue in the near future as the community continues to grow.”

The ridership survey was then conducted in June of 2013. There were two components of the survey, a written version and the other was in person with sites located at nearby subway stations and areas surrounding Elmhurst Hospital Center. Both of them contained questions about what means of transportation residents use at the time, their travel frequency, their mode of choice and how they might avail themselves of LIRR service.

“This survey will be very important in helping us determine if there is sufficient demand in the Elmhurst community to consider reopening the station,” said Helena Williams, LIRR President, during the time of the ridership survey. “We urge residents to take a few minutes to fill it out. There are many issues that need to be carefully evaluated as part of this process but this is an important first step.”

Following the ridership survey came the funding. Crowley, Meng and Dromm released a statement following the release of the MTA’s Capital Program.

“Restoring LIRR service to Elmhurst will help a burgeoning neighborhood reach its full economic potential and become a destination for all New Yorkers,” said Crowley, Meng and Dromm. “We are thrilled to learn the MTA agrees that investing in this community is a win-win and that they have included critical funding to rebuild the station in their recently proposed capital budget. For years, Elmhurst residents have called for greater transportation options and we are now one step closer to turning this idea into a reality. We will continue to work with MTA officials to ensure this project remains a top priority and look forward to the day when Elmhurst will be the next stop for millions of New Yorkers.”

“We have budgeted $30.5 million for the design and construction of a new LIRR station at Elmhurst,” said Aaron Donovan, spokesperson for the MTA. “It would include two new 12-car-long platforms along with staircases, platform railings, platform shelters, ticket vending machines, as well as lighting, communication and security systems. The station will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with elevators. The funding includes environmental review, design and construction.”

“For Elmhurst, one of Queens’ most vibrant and fastest-growing communities, the reopening of its LIRR station will be transformational,” said Crowley. “I applaud the MTA Board for approving the project as part of its 2015-19 capital program and I thank both Congresswoman Grace Meng and Council Member Daniel Dromm for their roles in helping to make this a reality. After years of advocating for this new station, the MTA Board approval means we are yet one step closer to not only ensuring local residents have the transportation options they deserve but also making sure Elmhurst lives up to its full economic potential.”

Read more here.

Western Queens Gazette: Tour Unkempt LIRR Overpass, Demand Improvements


(L. to r.); Christian Cassagnol, district manager, Community Board 4 Queens; Councilmember Daniel Dromm; state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky; Rosemarie Daraio, president, COMET Civic Group; and Geraldine Walsh, treasurer, COMET Civic Group.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing); Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights); Christian Cassagnol, district manager, Community Board 4 Queens; Rosemarie Daraio, president, COMET Civic Group; and Geraldine Walsh, treasurer, COMET Civic Group, toured the 55th Avenue/Elmhurst Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) overpass with LIRR and Department of Sanitation officials to discuss the unkempt conditions and demand immediate improvements to address the situation.

“This site must be cleaned and made safe for pedestrians,” said Stavisky. “There is no substitute for an on-site visit to see conditions first-hand. Councilmember Dromm and I will continue to monitor the problem.”

“Quality of life issues are vitally important to the growth, strength and happiness of the community,” said Dromm. “Monday’s walk-through hopefully marks the start of a stronger commitment from the LIRR to keep their property clean. I thank the railroad, Senator Stavisky, the Department of Sanitation and the many community activists for working on this issue.”

DNAinfo: Diversity Plaza to Get More Seating and Improved Lighting

Councilman Dromm and the DOT will contribute a combined $2.5 million to improve the plaza. photo: Veronica C./Foursquare

By Katie Honan

JACKSON HEIGHTS — A local pedestrian plaza will be getting more seats, better lighting and maps — and the community will have the chance to vote on even more improvements — thanks to funding from the area’s councilman and the city.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm announced plans to allocate $500,000 from his discretionary funds to pay for improvements to Diversity Plaza, which is on 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in Jackson Heights.

The plaza will receive additional seating, improved lighting and community maps with directions to the plaza once it becomes permanent, he said.

“These improvements will go a long way to build out an asset that our community has come to adopt as a town square,” Dromm said.

In addition to the funds from Dromm’s office, the Department of Transportation has earmarked $2 million to make even more changes to the plaza — changes which residents will be able to discuss and vote on at a meeting later this fall.

The money could go towards things like an improved street structure and a public pay toilet, the councilman said.

“Diversity Plaza is a result of tremendous community effort, from the intensive transportation planning sessions that developed it, to the efforts of the local merchants and civic groups that are now sustaining it,” said Andy Wiley-Schwartz, an assistant commissioner at the DOT.

The street was closed and turned into a pedestrian plaza in 2011. It is currently in its temporary design phase, but the additional money will help transition it into a permanent space.

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131014/jackson-heights/diversity-plaza-get-more-seating-improved-lighting

 

Ny1: Touring Daniel Dromm’s District

NY1 VIDEO: The Road to City Hall’s Errol Louis visited City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s 25th city council district in Queens.

Daily News: Long Island Rail Road could arrive in Elmhurst

It could be all aboard the Long Island Rail Road in Elmhurst if local lawmakers have their way.
LIRR officials will begin a month-long survey next week to see if it makes financial sense to reopen the neighborhood’s long-shuttered, overhead station.
elmhurst-lirr-station
(L-R) Congressman Joseph Crowley, Council Member Daniel Dromm and LIRR President Helena Williams take a walking tour around the former Elmhurst LIRR Station in Elmhurst in 2012.
“It’s a worthwhile investment,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights.) “It would be a big transportation and economic development boost for the area.”
A surge of new residents have moved into Elmhurst in recent years, Dromm said, leading to more crowded trains and buses.
That’s why he’s confident locals would be willing to shell out the $8 per ride during peak hours for a faster, more comfortable trip to Manhattan. Straphangers currently shell out $2.50 for a subway or bus ride.
“People would be willing to pay a little bit more for the convenience of knowing when the train was going to arrive,” Dromm said. “We have some major employers in that area — such as the Elmhurst Hospital [Center] and the Queens Center Mall.”
LIRR officials said the future of the $30 million project won’t be decided until at least 2015.
The station was closed in 1985 because of low ridership, LIRR officials previously said. But trains on the Port Washington line still pass through it on the way to Manhattan.
Dromm and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) approached the LIRR to reopen the station in early 2012.
“This is an important first step,” LIRR President Helena Williams said in a statement.
The agency will mail a written questionnaire to nearby homes and have representatives in the neighborhood question pedestrians about their modes of transportation.
Opening the station could alleviate the uncomfortable overcrowding on the area’s mass transit options, said Robert Valdes-Clausell, one of the directors of the Newtown Civic Association.
It could also help locals to get to and from other parts of Queens — and even Long Island.
“They should have reopened long ago,” said Rosemarie Poveromo, president of the nearby United Community Civic Association. “It’s convenient for the people in that immediate community.”

By Clare Trapasso
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/long-island-rail-road-arrive-elmhurst-article-1.1379394#ixzz2X0M4DkWg

NY1: MTA Considers Reopening Elmhurst LIRR Station

NY1 VIDEO: Working with Congressman Crowley and City Council Member Dromm, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering reopening a shuttered Long Island Rail Road station in Elmhurst, and is seeking residents’ feedback before making a decision via Elmhurst Travel Surveys.

See more at: http://queens.ny1.com/content/top_stories/184305/mta-considers-reopening-elmhurst-lirr-station–seeks-residents–input/#sthash.Mq0IKyT8.dpuf

Times Ledger: Jax Hgts boy’s death inspires traffic forum


A block away from where an 11-year-old boy was run over by a dump truck in December, about 100 people attended City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s (D-Jackson Heights) forum Tuesday centered on improving traffic in Jackson Heights.

“This is what I thought a very good turnout,” Dromm said, “but it’s an interest of concern.”


The councilman said he had wanted to do more to improve traffic safety in Jackson Heights and had been in discussions with the city Department of Transportation, but the death of Miguel Torres, who was struck by the rear wheels of a white dump truck turning right onto Northern Boulevard from 80th Street, spurred him to get into greater discussions with the DOT. Police had not found the driver as of Wednesday afternoon.

“That just increased the urgency with which we needed to address some of these problems,” Dromm said.

The panel was held at IS 145, at 33-34 80th St. in Jackson Heights, where Torres went to school. Representatives from the 115th Precinct, the DOT and Transportation Alternatives, a public transportation advocacy group, attended. Transportation Alternatives and the civic group Jackson Heights Green Alliance co-hosted the event with Dromm.

The forum discussed both preventive and enforcement measures when dealing with traffic safety, which Yu-Ting Liu, of Transportation Alternatives, referred to as the “carrot” and the “stick” approach.

“There’s a lot of pedestrian safety and traffic calming programs that are available,” Liu said.

Two of the most commonly discussed solutions were speed tracking cameras and slow zones. Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner Delilah Hall said the DOT is in favor of speed tracking cameras, which have the potential to warn motorists speeding the same way that red light cameras have prevented drivers from running the lights.

Liu said getting drivers to slow down is of grave importance as speeding kills four times as many people as drunk driving and the difference between being hit at 30 mph and 40 mph is an 80 percent survival rate vs. a 70 percent death rate.

“Speeding matters,” she said. “Every mile per hour matters.”

The developed slow zones, which were implemented in July 2012, set 20 mph zones in residential areas as well as adding speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures. Some sections of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and Auburndale received slow zones, but to do this the area must have natural boundaries and must not be a bus or truck route.

As a major thoroughfare, the intersection where Miguel was hit could not become a slow zone, Hall said.

“We will continue to work with you on how to make Northern Boulevard safer,” Hall said.

Liu said to make changes in terms of traffic safety, it is important to be specific, organized and articulate about what you want as a community.

“Get organized about what your problem is, document it and work with your local elected officials,” she said.

Streetsblog: Elmhurst Reps Want LIRR Station Reopened and New Revenues to Pay For It

From Streetsblog: By Noah Kazis


Elmhurst’s elected officials voiced support for transit investment at a town hall hosted by Congressman Joe Crowley and Council Member Daniel Dromm last night.

A group of politicians including the two hosts, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, and Assembly Members Grace Meng and Francisco Moya called for reopening Elmhurst’s Long Island Railroad Station, shuttered in 1985 due to low ridership. And to help bus and subway riders across the city, Elmhurst’s reps said the state would need to find new, dedicated revenue for transit.

Underlying the entire evening discussion was Elmhurst’s explosive population growth, fed by a vibrant immigrant community. The population of Elmhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights grew 40 percent between 1980 and 2010, and many believe recent estimates for the area are too low. “Elmhurst continues to grow and multiply,” said Crowley, “but we have still been limited to the same modes of transportation.”

Residents complained of crowded buses and leaky subway stations, demanding more investment in their neighborhood. Just under half of subway riders interviewed by Transportation Alternatives at a nearby station said they had a one-way commute of 45 minutes or more.

Crowley, who also serves as head of the Queens Democratic Party, said that more and better transit has to be part of the solution for the neighborhood. “It’s about more livable communities, places that provide access to people,” he said. “It’s about finding smarter ways to move people about.”

“You can’t run a city like New York City unless you have a high-quality mass transit system,” agreed Dromm.

Previous transit town halls have taken place in Flushing, Jamaica, and Soundview. Much of the evening’s discussion focused on the effort led by Crowley and Dromm to reopen the neighborhood’s LIRR station, located on Broadway near Whitney Avenue. “The people are here,” said Stavisky. “They’re ready to use the railroad.”


Though reopening the station would cost $30 million, according to the Daily News, and LIRR fares are significantly costlier than the subway, Crowley argued the money would be worth it for many residents headed into Manhattan. “What is the cost of freedom?” he asked. “What is the cost for an extra forty minutes or an hour? What would one pay to have that extra hour with their children?”

A representative for the LIRR expressed enthusiasm for the possibility of reopening the station after the completion of the MTA’s current capital plan in 2014; he said improvements currently being built would be necessary to ensure that trains stopping in Elmhurst weren’t already full once they arrived.

He also said that the station would have elevator access to the platforms, which earned acclaim from the largely older population attending the meeting. “From here to Mid-Manhattan is an hour and twenty minutes at least,” said one Elmhurst resident who currently has to take the bus because she is in a wheelchair. “I do it three times a week.” Added her friend, “If you build it, we will come.”

While the politicians didn’t endorse a specific revenue source to pay for the changes, they knew that Elmhurst won’t get something for nothing. “That’s why finding ways to raise additional funding for the MTA to make improvements, for the Elmhurst station, for any of the subway lines, in reality, is so important,” said Dromm. “Without some source of dedicated funding, we’re going to see more neglect, unfortunately.”


In response to a question about where those revenues could come from, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White rattled off a number of options, including raising the more than a dozen taxes that already go to the MTA, reinstating the city’s commuter tax and putting that money toward transit, or Sam Schwartz’s plan to rationalize the city’s toll system — lowering tolls on outlying bridges while adding tolls to the currently free bridges into Manhattan.

“The most important part is finding alternative resources so we can invest and reinvest in our mass transit system,” said Crowley. He didn’t endorse a particular revenue stream, but said that White’s list included a number of potential options.

The congressman also noted that in addition to finding new revenues, the MTA needs to hold on to those it has from the federal government. The Republican proposal for a transportation bill, which Crowley fought against, could have cost the MTA up to a billion dollars a year by eliminating the share of gas tax revenues going to transit. “We need to not cut,” he said. “I know that the Senate is working on a two year extender at the current levels, which is not optimum but is better than what they were doing in the House.” Crowley said he was hopeful that Congress would pass a transportation bill this year, but that he wasn’t holding his breath.

Meng, who along with Stavisky also attended the transit town hall in Flushing last summer, spoke passionately about the importance of transit. “For the future and success of the Queens economy, I think mass transit is vital,” she said. She noted that many of her constituents see building more parking as the best way to improve transportation, but investing in transit was a better idea.

Moya pitched transit improvements as a way to improve the ever-worsening congestion on Queens streets. “We need to find a solution to how we can ease a lot of the traffic that we’re seeing throughout the communities. So many people travel by car,” he said, “because of the lack of a train.”

Streetsblog: The Jackson Heights Plaza Is Growing on Some Local Merchants


A package of enhancements and adjustments to the new pedestrian plaza on 37th Road in Jackson Heights — the object of a high-profile backlash from a group of local merchants this winter — is winning over some of the skeptics.

DOT has placed new planters and seating to spruce up the plaza and give it more color, while also adding parking and loading spaces and reversing the direction of traffic on a nearby block to improve access to the plaza, allaying some of the merchants’ fears.

The larger package of transportation changes related to the plaza had shown impressive benefits — shaving seven minutes off of local bus trips — and the new public space was already widely used. But recent tweaks have helped build a stronger consensus around the plaza, which proved to be the most controversial element of the plan.

City Council Member Daniel Dromm is a plaza supporter and has used his discretionary funds to pay for its upkeep. ”DOT has stepped up to the plate,” he said of the dozen or so planters that arrived in the plaza last Thursday. “The place is looking much more attractive.”

More street furniture is set to be delivered this Friday, when tables and chairs will be delivered at the request of two local restaurant owners. Those business owners, who had previously aligned with the merchants leading the fight against the plaza, have disassociated from the opposition. “They have grown to see the benefits to their restaurants,” said Dromm.

The tweaks aren’t limited to the new pedestrian space between 73rd and 74th Street. One block to the east, DOT has changed the direction of 37th Road. Now, the street feeds into the plaza rather than away from it, easing merchant fears that the redesign of the neighborhood’s street network had made it harder for customers to access their stores.

On that same block, DOT replaced a bus layover area and striped bike lane with parking; the buses were moved a block away and the bike lane replaced with sharrows. According to Dromm, the addition of these spots is more than enough to offset the removal of parking to make way for the plaza. “There’s actually more parking for the merchants now,” he said, estimating that there’s been a net increase of five parking spaces. Loading zones were also added around the corner for stores fronting the plaza.

Overall, the new traffic pattern appears popular in the neighborhood. At a town hall meeting held last night, ten or so plaza opponents held up signs and protested, but a much larger number cheered and clapped for the changes, reported Len Maniace, a vice president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. “There was opposition,” he said, “but there was significantly more support.”

“It was an overwhelming show of support for the plaza,” said Dromm. “It was just great.”

When the transportation plan for the neighborhood was first presented to the local community board last year, including rerouting two bus routes and making the one block of 37th Road car-free, it passed unanimously.

While some merchants are coming to embrace the plaza, the hard core of opposition shows no sign of being mollified by the modifications. “I don’t think they will be totally satisfied until the plaza is gone,” said Dromm, “and that’s not going to happen.”

In addition to speeding bus service, said Dromm, the plaza has had a marked impact on safety. The intersection at one end of the plaza, where 37th Road, 74th Street and Broadway all meet, was the most dangerous in Jackson Heights until last year. “Since the implementation of the traffic study, there hasn’t been one accident on the corner,” said Dromm. “That alone is reason to keep it.”

A more formal DOT evaluation will be ready next month, said Maniace, and will be presented to the community board.

With better weather around the corner, Maniace said he expects the plaza to become only more popular in the coming months among residents and merchants alike. “With the spring and summer coming up, there’s a real opportunity for increased business there,” he said. “They may end up needing even more tables and chairs.”