New York & Atlantic builds on construction and demolition debris business

Since September 2021, the New York & Atlantic Railway has worked with CSX to move outbound materials for Cooper Recycling’s facility in Brooklyn, New York. Anacostia Rail Holdings/Gregory Grice

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor 

The New York & Atlantic Railway (NY&A) recently passed the one-year mark as a key service provider for Cooper Recycling in Brooklyn, New York. 

A construction and demolition (C&D) debris processor, Cooper Recycling had solely employed trucking to haul its recycled debris until the company began using NY&A in September 2021.  

Each year, Cooper Recycling processes about 1 billion pounds of debris, recovering up to 95% of the C&D materials received at its Brooklyn facility. The company sorts and separates the materials into different commodities.  

Recycling is key because 32,000 tons of C&D waste is created in the New York City area each day, and the city of Long Island will lose its last landfill in 2024. 

About four years ago, Cooper Recycling leaders approached NY&A officials to learn what rail had to offer as an alternative transportation mode. 

Cooper Recycling Facility Cooper Recycling processes about 1 billion pounds of construction and demolition debris each year, recovering up to 95% of all materials received. Cooper Recycling

“They had zero knowledge about rail. We had to teach them about it from the ground up,” says NY&A Director of Sales and Marketing Charles Samul. 

Owned by Anacostia Rail Holdings, NY&A operates 270 miles of track in the New York City area and interchanges with CSX, Canadian Pacific, Norfolk Southern Railway, New York New Jersey Rail LLC and Providence & Worcester Railroad. 

Executives from Cooper Recycling and NY&A discussed the recycling company’s transportation, equipment and rate needs. They also reviewed ways to interest CSX in becoming the connecting carrier for a new rail move, says Samul. 

“It took several years to get this up and running,” he says. 

Cooper Recycling opted to divert a major portion of its outbound traffic because of rail’s flexibility to reach farther points, and its lower transportation cost compared with trucking, which has grown expensive, says Samul. In addition, the company was intrigued by rail’s sustainability benefits. 

“Rail is by far the most efficient mode of transportation for freight,” said William Cooper, Cooper Recycling’s director of business development, in NY&A’s latest newsletter. “The fact that rail greatly reduces carbon intensity is kind of a no-brainer.” 

But before it could begin serving the Brooklyn facility, NY&A needed to overcome several hurdles, such as nailing an interchange agreement with CSX and convincing New York officials to modify a permit that would enable Cooper Recycling to ship its C&D materials by rail. 

NY&A Locomotive Owned by Anacostia Rail Holdings, NY&A operates 270 miles of track in the New York City area and interchanges with three Class Is: CSX, Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern Railway. Anacostia Rail Holdings/Gregory Grice

CSX and the short line jointly sent letters to the state reviewing “how we would handle the cars for Cooper Recycling,” says Samul, adding that it took a year to complete the permit modification process. 

The short line then designed a service package involving trains that already passed Cooper Recycling’s Brooklyn facility each day. The building’s unused siding was reworked into usable condition and a four-car spot was created for rail. 

Outbound shipments — which remove 20 to 25 trucks from area highways daily — are moved in 6,400-cubic-foot gondolas. Cooper Recycling workers load and dispatch rail cars.  

Now, NY&A moves four cars carrying 400 tons of C&D materials each day, five days per week. Cooper Recycling’s rail-car volume through 2022’s first five months was 120% higher than the amount moved in the same 2021 period. 

“They had expected two cars each day, but we’re doing the four,” says Samul. 

NY&A’s service so far has been very consistent, Cooper said in the newsletter. 

“We’ve been pleased with our experience with NY&A, and we have been pleased with the performance of the freight railroads in general,” he said. “We are working at increasing our rail capacity now that we have things rolling.” 

The potential is high for increasing business with Cooper Recycling, Samul believes. The short line might eventually handle other commodities for the company. 

“We fully portend we will handle additional materials with them in future,” Samul says.