No Choo Choo: LIRR Noise Raises Ire of Neighbors

Is the Long Island Rail Road, LIRR, too noisy to continue?
Is the Long Island Rail Road, LIRR, too noisy to continue?

Sometime next week, the powers that be in East Hampton Town will be deciding on whether to close the East Hampton Airport. keep it open or keep it open with yet-to-be-specified restrictions. The town owns the airport. And until the end of last month, certain government restrictions, agreed to in 1990, were in place that would prevent them from deciding to close the place.

Now here we are, and these restrictions have been lifted. Shall we close the airport? A group of people living near the airport complain about the noise. They call it intolerable. Using a telephone and a computer program, in 2019 they filed 47,500 noise complaints, objecting to the 19,200 total flights in and out of the airport that year. It seems something must be done.

But now, as the town considers that decision, two other groups have sprung up to demand the closing of other transportation hubs in town. The next few weeks are going to be very busy at Town Hall.

One group lives near the Long Island Rail Road tracks. And the number of complaints filed, using the same computer program, is massive.

“Every time a train stops at the East Hampton station, where we live, or at the Amagansett and Montauk stations, where others live, the clanging of the gates and the sound of the diesel engine horn is horrible,” said Joe Watchman, who lives on Newtown Lane where it crosses the tracks. “Everything stops. We could be putting the kids to bed. Or watching Fox News. We’ve been putting up with this for years. Now we want action.”

Those living near the railroad have filed more than 8,400 noise complaints in just the last month. This is three times as many complaints as are filed against the aircraft at the airport. Many of them come from residents who live near the railroad crossings where people get killed if they try to cross the tracks.

“We’ve been living with this for years,” Watchman continued. “Also gagging on diesel engine exhaust. Not to mention the noise of the ambulances when people have to be airlifted to the hospital. Or taken to the morgue, may they rest in peace.”

How the railroad people got to use the computer program for complaining is unknown. But what is known about the complaints from those living near the airport is that 40% of the complaints are from just 10 people who press the complaint button over and over, sometimes as often as 30 times a day.

And 20% of the aircraft they complain about are aircraft that pass over the airport without using it as they go from New York to Europe, for example. This still leaves complaints about the noise, but then there are other complaints about other noises.

The airport group is called Shut The Airport. And the railroad group is called No Choo Choo.

And they seem to be arguing with each other.

“You knew you would be next to the train noise when you built near the tracks,” said Sheila Barnstaple of Shut The Airport. “You just want your property value to triple when they agree to shut down the railroad.”

“The same could be said for you,” Rachael Accabonac of No Choo Choo said. “The airport was just woods when it was built there in 1936. Furthermore, Ezekiel McCracken built his home before the railroad came through in 1889. And he’s living there today.”

“We have Harold Peoples, who in 1917 built a log cabin in the woods before the airport. And he’s still here.”

And now there comes still a third group to demand that the noise be stopped. Filing papers in East Hampton Town Hall just this past week is Emil Horseback, the well-known librarian who lives at the corner of Main Street and Mill Hill Lane who says, “Enough is enough.” He’s heading up a group called No More Cars, and cites the whopping 102,325 noise complaints from his group that has filed objections to the horrendous honking, exhaust fumes, unmuffled motorcycles and giant diesel engine trucks and buses that have completely overwhelmed the roads in East Hampton.

“It’s a catastrophe right in front of my house. Cars are everywhere. People are dying in accidents left and right,” he says. “Every road in East Hampton is a superfund site of gasoline and oil spills, high-speed ambulances and road rage. Over 100 people die in the county every month. It has to stop.”

He says he wants to see a toll booth and gate at the Shinnecock Canal.

“The cause of all of this is all these immigrants. They are fleeing from New York City to come here. I know we can’t build a wall. That’s illegal. But we could turn them away at a toll booth with a gate. Charge $50,000 to come through the toll gate. And only let people in between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Or if they are a farmer or fisherman, they get a pass for a pickup truck if it’s passed inspection. We could have an inspection station there at the bridge.”

Peter Van Scoyoc, the current town supervisor of East Hampton, stopped by to talk to Emil Horseback.

“You have to file these papers in Southampton, not East Hampton,” he told Horseback. “The canal is in Southampton Town, not East Hampton Town.”

But Horseback would have none of it.

“These immigrants should not be welcome here,” he continued. “Or at the least we should have immigration quotas. So many from Wall Street, so many from Madison Avenue and so forth. They think they are big shots, these immigrants from the city. They don’t work. They point at things and say move that from here to there and we locals have to do the work. It’s demeaning. If they farmed or fished, we’d welcome them. They’d be like us. But they drive those cars with the crazy names like Porsche and Lamborghini. We don’t want their kind.”

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