Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge church pastors ask MTA for mercy

Charge R train vibrations damaging their buildings

May 8, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Sitting in a pew during mass at Saint Anselm Catholic Church is like “riding the train,” said the Rev. Msgr. John Maloney, the church’s pastor. The reason? The church, located on 82nd Street and Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, sits above the R subway line.

But while the church is located above the R train, parishioners shouldn’t have to feel as if they’re in the middle of a subway car when they’re sitting in a pew praying, Maloney said.

In recent months, the vibrations of the trains, which have always been felt at St. Anselm Church, have become much more pronounced, according to Maloney, who said parishioners can feel the rumbling as they say their prayers. “The vibrations are 10 times worse,” the pastor said. The church building and the building housing Saint Anselm Catholic Academy, located next door to the church, have developed cracks that appear to be the result of the train vibrations, Maloney said. “There are cracks throughout the building,” he said.

Even worse, a piece of limestone recently broke away from the school building and went tumbling to the ground below. The building has been undergoing repairs, but Maloney said he is convinced the accident happened because of the R train.

The vibrations have gotten worse in recent months, according to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn), who blamed Hurricane Sandy. The 2012 super-storm flooded the Montague Street Tunnel in downtown Brooklyn, forcing a closure of the tunnel for repairs. The R train currently runs only between 95th Street in Bay Ridge and Court Street in downtown Brooklyn. But the shortened route means that the R trains run beneath Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge more frequently, Golden said. That, plus the fact that the tracks and subway walls need repairs add to a whole lot of shaking going on homes along Fourth Avenue, Golden said.

Golden held a press conference on Fourth Avenue and 83rd Street, across the street from St. Anselm Catholic Academy, on Thursday to call on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to expedite an unrelated track repair project that is currently underway in Bay Ridge R train stations so that the work will be completed more quickly and residents can get some sleep.

“The repairs started in January. It’s a 10 month project. They’re only working at night, so it’s taking longer,” Golden said. He suggested that work be done during the day as well as the night to make things go faster. Golden also said the MTA should consider running shuttle buses along Fourth Avenue to take riders back and forth from Bay Ridge to the R train’s 59th Street station in Sunset Park

Homes, apartment buildings and religious institutions on Fourth Avenue, including St. Anselm Church on 82nd Street, the Bay Ridge Jewish Center on 81st Street and Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church on 73rd Street, are all being adversely affected by the R train vibrations, Golden said.

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St. Anselm Church is spending $300,000 to repair the church building and is expected to shell out another $600,000 to repair the school, Maloney said.

Maloney, the Rev. Msgr. Kevin Noone, pastor of Our Lady of Angels and a local resident all spoke at the press conference to plead with the MTA to take quick action.

“I’ve lived in the rectory for five years. The rumbling is much louder now,” Noone said. Things have gotten so bad that “in the china closet, we have to make sure the glasses are separate,” he said. Otherwise, the rattling from the trains would cause the glasses to break.

Ann Hennessy, who has lived in Bay Ridge for 60 years, said it has never been this bad. “I have a nice big crack in my ceiling,” she said. “And there’s a piece of brick that just fell.”

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said expediting the repair work “is a public safety issue.” The block where St. Anselm Church and the school are located is usually heavy with pedestrian traffic, she said. “Parents, children, senior citizens walk by here. They could have been killed,” when the limestone chunk fell, she said.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the agency has responded to the complaints by performing various inspections and vibration tests in several buildings. Vibration monitoring took place at St. Anselm Church in mid-January, he said. “The inspection and tests revealed that vibration results were slightly elevated (not at a level that would cause structural damage) and in order to rectify the situation, we are close to completing rail maintenance in that area. The maintenance includes the very best available technology to reduce vibrations,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email.

Workers have replaced defective tie blocks, replaced plates and rails and tamped and regulated sections of the track. The track team is also close to completing the installation Continuous Welded Rail (CWR) utilizing resilient rail fasteners, according to Ortiz, who said the job requires several thousand feet of CWR, which had to be manufactured and delivered. The process was hindered due to inclement weather this winter.

“Once the CWR is installed, we will also install noise abatement plates, which will add additional noise reduction,” Ortiz said.

In his email to the Eagle, Ortiz attached a note the MTA received from Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge, expressing gratitude for the “swift corrective action” in addressing the vibration problem.

“Residents have been calling to express their appreciation to our office and to quote one resident, ‘I have lived in a Fourth Avenue apartment building in Bay Ridge my entire life and for the first time I feel no hint that the R train is passing by,’” Beckmann wrote.

But Beckmann told the Brooklyn Eagle that her letter was referring only to those residents that had contacted the board to express their gratitude at the reduction in the vibrations. ‘If there are still residents feeling the vibrations, the board is certainly sensitive to that and we would hope it will be addressed,” she said.

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