BY BROOKE SMITH
Residents of Springfield Gardens living near John F. Kennedy Airport are demanding a crackdown on illegal truck activities and solutions to residential congestion and speeding.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted a public meeting Thursday to present possible solutions to transportation concerns raised in the previous meeting as well as discuss the findings of the Springfield Gardens and JFK Transportation study.
About 20 residents, civic group leaders and community board leaders met to view the transportation study. Data was compiled from demographics, zoning and land use, traffic, truck movement, parking, pedestrians, accidents and public transit were collected in the Springfield Gardens/JFK area to generate recommendations to address community concerns and improve traffic operations.
Recent initiatives to improve traffic flow began with the opening of the Airport Plaza at JFK Airport on June 29 as the first public truck parking facility in the city. It is hoped that this site will decrease truck layover on local streets.
Despite the new Airport Plaza, it was noted, congestion from truck parking remains an issue on 147th Avenue, Springfield Boulevard and Merrick Boulevard.
“The facility is fairly new, we have begun working with the city to create some promotion to communicate information to truckers about the availability of truck parking,” said Lou Venech, the general manager for regional transportation and policy development planning. “We haven’t had as much overnight utilization of the facility as we would like. It is the first truck stop in the five boroughs. It took a long time to get it and it’s going to take a while for the industry to believe that it’s there.”
Many residents blamed the lack of utilization of the plaza on the cost in place for truck parking.
“Those folks who know that there is a cost will not leave Springfield Boulevard and Merrick Boulevard where there is parking for free and come to the parking facility,” said Bess DeBatham, co-chair of the Transportation Committee at Community Board 13.
Residents also called for greater police enforcement to stop illegally parked or idling trucks.
“There is legislation at city level that would increase the fines for idling,” said Malik Sanders, director of communications under Councilman Donovan Richards. ”There’s also potential training citizens can go through that allows them to record idling which would then give them a percentage of the truck’s paid fines.”
A Weigh in Motion (WIM) system will also be installed on Rockaway Boulevard, according to the DOT. By the end of the year, sensors will be installed to document overweight trucks that do not have permits. Nine closed-circuit cameras will also be monitoring trucks in the Springfield Gardens area.
The DOT touted other local improvements, including the reconstruction of Springfield Boulevard between South Conduit and 147th avenues. The project brought the installation of new signals, reconstruction on sidewalks, medians, a protected bike path and planted trees. The drainage system on 147th Avenue was also upgraded as a part of the “Blue Belt” project to facilitate flooding issues.
Even so, Gloria Boyce-Charles, secretary of Eastern Queens Alliance, and other residents voiced concerns about dilapidated roads on 147th Avenue, blaming the problems on frequent truck activity to the nearby warehouse.
Michael Griffith, the DOT deputy director of traffic analysis, called upon the community to voice concerns before the final improvement plan is finalized and implemented in the next four to six months. Thereafter, he said, the DOT will turn its attention toward traffic improvements in downtown Jamaica.