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N.Y. Lawmakers Seek 24-Hour Notice for Hazardous Freight

NEW YORK -- Concerned with radioactive materials spilling from train derailments on Long Island Rail Road tracks, N.Y. lawmakers said they have drafted legislation that would notify village officials and first responders when freight trains transport hazardous materials.

At a news conference at the New Hyde Park LIRR station yesterday, Assemb. Tom Alfano (R-North Valley Stream), along with state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), told a crowd of roughly 40 community members that their legislation would give first responders the information they need to protect themselves and Long Islanders.

Currently, freight companies, which contract through the LIRR to use its tracks, only notify Nassau and Suffolk authorities, but Alfano's bill would mandate freight companies give 24-hour notice to MTA and local officials before they transport hazardous waste.

"The people in these villages, especially the mayors and the first responders, have absolutely no notice of this occurrence -- and that's a problem," Alfano said.

Alfano fears that a spill or derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous -- if not radioactive -- material would jeopardize not only the first responders, but also residents who live close to train tracks.

"It's not fair to have our first responders ... answer a tragic call and be totally and completely unprepared of what they're going to face," he said.

Hannon introduced the Senate version on Friday, and Alfano expected to introduce his bill this coming week, adding it should pass during this session.

Joe Calderone, a spokesman for LIRR, said, "We will review the proposal carefully and we support the idea of community notification."

New Hyde Park firefighters said they were thankful for the legislators' efforts. "We have to know how to prepare. We have to know how to train for this. Given a 24-hour notice of what's coming through these lines will be greatly appreciated," Fire Chief John Divello said.

Save Our Villages, a local resident organization, backs the bill, said the group's president, Robert Femminella of New Hyde Park.

"We wanted to support this legislation, because this is along our corridor. Many of us live 100 feet from these tracks, so if there is a disaster, we're in trouble," he said.

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