Teaneck Council Wrestles with Rail Safety Amidst CSX Concerns

At the latest Teaneck Town Council meeting, the focus was primarily on rail safety, with discussion largely revolving around concerns over the CSX railway system and the possibility of derailments. The stakes are high in Teaneck, where CSX freight trains, some of which can stretch up to 100 cars long, are responsible for transporting hazardous materials such as ethanol and crude oil.

Art Vatsky, a local resident, captured the gravity of the situation, stating, “If a train derails in Teaneck, essentially, Teaneck changes. The towns that suffer derailings don’t recover.” He further emphasized the national scope of the issue, noting that derailments are a concern from Teaneck to places as far as Montana and California.

The meeting touched on the town’s preparedness for rail emergencies. Larry Robinson, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) coordinator, emphasized the importance of residents evacuating immediately in case of a rail incident, advising residents to evacuate at least 2,500 feet or half a mile away from the incident. Chief Joseph Burch of the Teaneck Fire Department reiterated the importance of residents practicing evacuation drills and leaving immediately when ordered.

Council members sought clarity on specific evacuation directions for residents. Robinson instructed, “If you live west of the railroad, go into Hackensack, go into River Ridge. If you live east of the railroad, go into Englewood, go into Leonia.”

Another resident raised concerns about the evacuation plan, especially for those who don’t drive. She pointed out their proximity to the railroad tracks and questioned how they would evacuate in the event of an emergency. She also highlighted the presence of a nursing home in the area and questioned the evacuation plans for its residents.

The meeting featured representatives from CSX, including Dave Schoons (Senior Manager of Hazmat), Arthur Beekman (Senior Special Agent), Robert Rohauer (Senior Manager of Strategic Projects and Community Affairs), and Rodney Oglesby (Director of State Relations). CSX announced an increased annual investment in infrastructure. They also introduced various safety measures, including updated hot bearing detectors and the initiation of a drone safety program.

Paula Rogovin, a founding member of the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, expressed her concerns about rail safety and the need for transparency in the town’s dealings with CSX. She urged the council to “hold a public forum about rail safety” and to compile and address residents’ concerns.

Outside of the rail safety discussion, the meeting also touched upon other significant topics. Solomon Itzkowitz, the leader of Bergen County Chaverim, was honored for his organization’s contributions to the community. Bergen County Chaverim, a volunteer organization, provides emergency assistance to community members in various situations. The organization was nominated for Congressman Gottheimer’s Bergen County Fifth Congressional District Hometown Hero Award.

Additionally, Barbara Ostroff, representing the League of Women Voters of Bergen County, presented on the New Jersey Green Amendment. She stressed the importance of constitutionally protecting the rights of New Jersey residents to clean water, air, and a healthy environment.

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