04.07.16

SCHUMER: THE TOWN OF PALMYRA IS VOLUNTARILY DEMOLISHING A CONDEMNED HOUSE ON TELLIER ROAD THAT IS AT RISK OF COLLAPSING ONTO NEARBY TRAIN TRACKS, BUT CSX NOW WANTS TO CHARGE PALMYRA ADDITIONAL FEES FOR THE DEMO – SENATOR CALLS ON MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR CORP, CSX, TO WORK WITH LOCALS TO WAIVE OR DRASTICALLY REDUCE UNFAIR FEE

While The Town of Palmyra Has No Obligation To Demolish The Decrepit House, It Is Planning To Do So In The Interest of Safety; Palmyra Is Willing To Cover The $21K Cost of Demo, But CSX Still Wants More

Schumer Said The Town Should Not Have To Pay Additional Fee – Nearly $9,000 – When It Is Voluntarily Removing The Condemned House; Schumer Calls On CSX To Work With The Town To Significantly Reduce Or Waive The Cost 

Schumer To CSX: Don’t Tread on Palmyra; Mitigate This Fee So Demolition Can Continue

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged CSX to work with local officials in the Town of Palmyra to waive or significantly reduce a fee that is currently inhibiting the town’s ability to demolish a condemned house on Tellier Road, which is at risk of collapsing onto the nearby train tracks. Schumer explained that the decrepit home sits just 14 feet from the CSX tracks and 20 feet from the roadway and, as such, presents a serious safety hazard. While the town is under no obligation to remove the condemned home, it has volunteered to do so in the interest of public safety. Despite this, Schumer said CSX is still looking to charge Palmyra additional fees for the demolition. Schumer said this is not only unfair, but could halt progress on this desperately needed demolition project. Schumer therefore called on CSX to be a good neighbor and work with local officials to waive or significantly reduce this cost.

“This fee from CSX, when the Town of Palmyra is already voluntarily absorbing tens of thousands in costs to remove this condemned house, puts an unfair and unnecessary burden on local taxpayers and officials. Not only is this unfair fee threatening to increase costs for the town by 40 percent, but it is also, ironically, allowing for this public safety hazard to sit there longer, looming over the train tracks and the Palmyra community,” said Schumer. “We can’t allow the demolition process to be mired in red tape any further. That’s why I’m calling on CSX to be a good neighbor and work with local officials to significantly reduce or waive this unfair charge. CSX is a very large and very profitable company and it can easily do the right thing for the people of Palmyra by waiving the fees for this vital safety improvement. They have been a good neighbor in other instance in New York and I strongly urge them to do that now for Palmyra.”

Schumer explained that, when CSX’s attempts to write to the property owner did not succeed, Palmyra condemned the house and voluntarily moved to secure the court approval needed to demolish the house. Now, the town is planning to move forward with the $21,000 demolition – a cost it is shouldering up front, and entirely on its own – in the interest of public safety. However, progress recently halted when demolition contractors received a notice that CSX is seeking to charge the town $8,924 in additional fees for the demolition, citing that it will need to deploy CSX workers to provide “flagging” services during demolition in the event that any material inadvertently lands or encroaches on the CSX track.

Todd Pipitone, Palmyra Town Councilman said, “The Town is in the process of attempting to demolish the property, even though the Town has no obligation to do so. We recognize that doing nothing could result in a life-threatening situation for our residents and/or anyone using the tracks should the house collapse onto the tracks. We know that Amtrak uses this line quite often. Also, numerous carriers are transporting hazardous materials on this route that if tipped accidentally could cause an evacuation of the area and necessitate costly cleanup efforts. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s support to move forward with our plans.”

Schumer argued that this additional fee, when Palmyra has acted in good faith to voluntarily remove the house, is unfair. Schumer said this CSX fee could threaten the town’s ability to complete the project altogether, as it would increase demolition costs by roughly 40 percent. Schumer said this would create a financial hardship for the town and, as a result, it is critical CSX work with local officials to waive or significantly reduce the fee. Schumer said any further hold-up could pose a risk to public safety, as the house only becomes more dangerous the longer it is allowed to sit there looming over the train tracks and the Tellier Road community.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to CSX’s CEO appears below:  

Dear Mr. Michael J. Ward,

I write in support of a request by the Town of Palmyra, New York which is seeking an accommodation from CSX to waive or reduce a $8,924 fee that CSX now proposes to charge the Town before the Town’s contractor can being demolishing a decrepit condemned house that is at risk of collapsing onto CSX’s track creating a safety hazard to CSX and Amtrak passenger trains that use this track daily.  I understand CSX is seeking to charge $8,924 to cover the cost of deploying CSX workers to provide “flagging” services during the demolition in the event any material inadvertently lands or encroaches on the CSX track right-of-way.   Since CSX would be a direct beneficiary of having this potential safety hazard removed, I request CSX immediately engage with the Town to forgo or reduce this fee.  This track carries CSX fuel cars and other freight cargo as well as Amtrak’s Empire Service trains and any potential hazard caused by this house could not only potentially disrupt CSX’s operations, but could jeopardize public safety.

This house, located at 4775 Tellier Road, sits just 14 feet from the CSX tracks on its north side and less than 20 feet from Tellier Road on its south side and has long been a safety concern of both the Town and CSX.   Indeed, CSX wrote to the property’s owner in 2014 to express concerns that the house posed a potential safety and operational issue for CSX.  When attempts by both the Town and CSX to compel the owner, who bought the house at a foreclosure auction in 2008, to repair or remove the structure did not succeed, the Town voluntarily moved to secure court approval to demolish the house.  While the Town is under no obligation to demolish the house, in the interest of public safety, it is willing to cover the approximately $21,000 cost of demolition and solicited bids from contractors four months ago.  Unfortunately the Town contacted my office for assistance when their demolition contractor was recently notified by CSX that CSX would require the $8,924 upfront payment for flagging services before the demolition could commence.  This fee would increase the demolition costs by over 40% and create a hardship for this small town and potentially limit the Town’s ability to proceed. 

The Town of Palmyra, recognizing the public benefit of removing this hazard, is stepping up to shoulder the upfront $21,000 demolition costs.  In that same spirit, I respectfully request CSX engage with the Town of Palmyra to mitigate this additional cost so that the Town can swiftly move forward with its plans to demolish this structure. 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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