Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column

I read with interest "LIRR storage under viaduct irks Lindenhurst," Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012. Last summer I met with four LIRR officials in Hampton Bays to discuss needed bridge repairs and I mentioned the continuing problem of construction supplies stored next to the tracks at the station. I was assured that the supplies would be "picked up." As you can surmise, the supplies are still there.

-- Bruce A. King, president, Hampton Bays Civic Association

The LIRR station in Hampton Bays -- like the one in Lindenhurst -- is downtown. And that makes the leftover construction materials a prominent eyesore.

Stretched along the south side of the tracks are piles of unused steel rails -- "sitting there, rusting away," as King put it -- along with wooden railroad ties, concrete ties used at road crossings, a mound of stones and two mobile structures.

The supplies arrived when track work was done a few years ago, King said, but didn't leave when the job was completed. There's evidence this isn't the first time: Several feet away are piles of older wooden ties, obscured by dirt and plant growth.

"I saw what you wrote about Lindenhurst [which asked for help getting similar materials removed from the station there] and I said let me drop you a line," King said. Watchdog reported that the LIRR said the stacks of construction materials in Lindenhurst will be relocated. And though the materials were still under the LIRR viaduct last week, Mayor Tom Brennan said Thursday the village and LIRR have spoken -- and the materials are expected to be relocated within two weeks. "We don't know where they'll be moving it," Brennan said, "but the main thing is they will be moving it."

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The railroad insists it doesn't want to be a bad neighbor -- that it is "committed to maintaining a clean right of way for our customers and neighboring communities," spokesman Sam Zambuto said last week. But its storage facilities are limited, he said, so on occasion materials are left at a work site "for use in an upcoming job in the same vicinity or for quick access during emergency repairs."

As for Hampton Bays: The LIRR says some of the materials can be removed, but others must stay. Specifically:

The rails: Most will stay, Zambuto said, as they're intended to be available for emergency repairs "on the eastern segment of the Montauk branch." But some rails qualify as scrap and "will be removed in the near future," he said.

The stone ballast: It will stay, he said, also for potential emergency track work.

The wooden ties will be removed.


The concrete ties will also be removed. Zambuto said they had been slated for a job nearby, "but a change in the work no longer requires their use" so they will be relocated to another project, again "in the near future."

As for the two mobile structures: They are secure storage containers, he said, and will remain. "One houses waterproofing materials being used on the $26 million renewal of three LIRR bridges in Hampton Bays -- the North Highway Bridge, the Montauk Highway Bridge and the Shinnecock Canal Bridge -- which started in the fall of 2011 and is expected to take two years to complete," he said. ("They're working on the bridges," King said. "I have to give them credit for that.")

The second is used for storage of grade-crossing gates and other equipment necessary for "unplanned, emergency repair of damaged gates and crossing equipment on the East End," Zambuto said.

As for the meaning of "near future": Stay tuned.


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In Babylon, right number gets right action


Sometimes, finding an answer to a problem comes down to calling the right telephone number. The challenge lies in determining which number is the right one.

That was the case with a situation brought to Watchdog's attention along Sunrise Highway, as it stretches through West Babylon and North Babylon. Just to the south is one of those unlikely oases: Southards Pond, set amid greenery and trails and, until several days ago, a dump.

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Not a sanctioned dump. Just a collection of abandoned furniture, bulging black garbage bags and assorted discarded goods pocking the landscape between the pond and the highway.

On a Watchdog visit, the dumped goods -- among them a sofa, a lamp shade, a chair, a baby stroller and a discarded pedestrian traffic sign -- had settled at intervals beginning along the guardrail and extending down a steep embankment toward the pond.

A caller told Watchdog the discards began collecting more than two years ago along the section between Livingston Avenue and Stream Street, just east of St. Joseph's Cemetery.

Watchdog's first call was to the Town of Babylon. That turned out to be the wrong number because, as town spokesman Tim Ruggeri said, the discarded items weren't occupying town land. It turns out that area is state park land.

The right number turned out to be the one for George Gorman, deputy regional director for state parks on Long Island.

"It's our land," Gorman said. "We'll clean it up."

Over the next two days, parks staff carried away two truckloads of trash, including the couch and lamp shade, even some tires.

On Friday, Watchdog found that most of the discarded items were indeed gone. But those remaining -- including a rug, scrap lumber and some stuffed garbage bags near the guardrail and, downhill, the pedestrian crossing sign, baby stroller and some newly arrived tires -- appeared to be sufficient for one more truckload.

Contacted Friday, Gorman said those items would be removed as soon as possible.