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No welcome mat for parked rail cars in Lackawanna neighborhood

A line of rail cars stands empty behind the homes on Orchard Place, an attractive nuisance for teens whose parties shatter the peace for residents in this Lackawanna neighborhood.

“I live right behind a train,” said Robert Wall, 83. “I can throw a stone at it. It’s a big eyesore in a quiet neighborhood.”

He wants the rail cars removed and he has an advocate in state Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy.

Kennedy has been in touch with representatives of Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad in an effort to alleviate the problem. Kennedy also contacted the state Department of Transportation’s Freight and Passenger Rail Bureau and the Federal Railroad Administration.

But moving the rail cars won't be easy.

Kennedy on Friday demanded that the railroad remove the parked rail cars from the track in their neighborhood and cease the practice of parking rail cars in residential neighborhoods.

In a letter to the railroad, Kennedy cited the track’s proximity to Global Concepts Charter School’s K-8 facility, a senior apartment complex, single-family homes and a large cemetery. Kennedy and the neighbors also expressed concern that, in addition to being a risk to children who could get hurt playing near or on the cars, that they can also be a public safety risk, with rail cars attracting vandalism.

“They have no place in this community," he said.

“Back in early spring we received complaints from residents about the rail cars parked on the tracks for months on end. They were attracting rodents and graffiti. We were told the rail cars were empty, but that some of them had contained lye,” said Kennedy.

The rail cars were removed by June but they returned in July, Wall said.

“Don’t use our community as your parking lot,” Kennedy said. “They recognized it was an issue, and ultimately corrected the problem. This is not an industrial neighborhood. Obviously, they didn’t get the message.”

But Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad spokesman Michael Williams said the message was received and the railroad took action by agreeing to not store tank cars and the location. They were removed and replaced with empty hopper cars.

"Storing rail cars for customers is an important, everyday aspect of short line and regional freight railroad business across North America," he said in an email. "The privately owned tracks in question are storage tracks, and rail cars are stored there in full compliance with federal law."

Even so, he said the railroad would be willing to remove rail cars store there. But, he added, "the county and city must commit to find or create other permanent rail car storage trackage within the next six months. Otherwise, the railroad will be required to return the stored cars to their current location." He said the railroad would follow up with elected officials.

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