Dec. 18, 2013 By Christian Murray
Parents, teachers and elected officials are calling on the MTA and the Department of Education to erect sound barriers next to an Astoria school that is located just 50 feet away the elevated N/Q lines.
Students at PS 85Q, which is located between the Astoria Blvd and Ditmars stations, are constantly being disrupted by the rumbling sounds of the subway, parents say. During rush hour a train goes by every 2 minutes and the children are forced to stop class for 30-45 seconds due to the noise.
On Tuesday morning, dozens of residents—urged on by politicians—stood outside the school and called for the DOT and MTA to rectify the problem.
“Our children come to school prepared to learn,” said Parents Association President Evie Hantzopoulos. “They take their education seriously, and the MTA and DOE need to as well.”
The parents said the students need a quiet environment, where they can focus on their studies.
The parents said that the students have been forced to learn hand signals, where they put two fingers in the air to indicate that a train is about to pass and that they can’t train hear their teachers. “Each time a student puts two fingers in the air and a lesson is put on hold it represents the city’s failure to provide an adequate learning environment,” said State Sen. Mike Gianaris.
Gianaris and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas have both written a letter to the two agencies calling for a number of soundproofing measures. They proposed soundproof windows, sound-absorbing tiles, rubber wheels on the trains, the cushioning of the rails with rubber pads and the construction of a sound barrier between the platform and the school.
The noise problem has been going on for decades, with studies conducted in the 1980s concluding that PS 85 students are constantly subject to high decibel levels.
“The fact that this problem has been harming students’ learning for three decades without being addressed by the DOE or MTA is mind-boggling,” Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas said.
But it appears as though the parents are going to have an uphill battle to effect change.
The DOE in a statement said: “Instruction is not being disrupted. Some classrooms have acoustic tiles.” The statement went on to say that the rooms on the side of the building exposed to the train noise have acoustic tiles.
“This is a high performing school that received an A on its recent Progress Report,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, the MTA, in a statement, said it would be difficult to reduce the train noise in the short term.
“The issue at hand is that the terminal switches for the Ditmars Boulevard station are located right by the school making the noise issue there a difficult fix. These switches are scheduled for replacement in the next capital plan (2015-2019).”
In the interim, the MTA said, “we have dispatched crews to tighten any loose bolts or joints that may contribute to noise.”