By Matthew Monks
Scores of long-haulers got the message Friday when dozens of angry locals stormed down the busy commercial strip hollering at drivers detouring off the Long Island Expressway.”Get back on the highway!” Juniper Park Civic Association President Robert Holden screamed at a giant green dump truck.Holden shouted through a megaphone and waved a placard reading “We Want A Safe Neighborhood” at the concrete hauler out of College Point.”No trucks! Diesel death!” he screamed.A cross section of Maspeth residents brought traffic to a crawl between the LIE and 64th Street. The marchers were young and old, single and married. One woman pushed a baby in a stroller – another pushed a man in a wheelchair.”Right now we need some enforcement,” said Manny Curuana, a local businessman and member of Community Board 5. “We need traffic enforcement stopping these 50-footers that don't belong on our street.””This is a residential area – trucks have no business in a residential street,” added Tony Utano, of Maspeth.In 2001 a Maspeth Chamber of Commerce study found that 500 trucks a day rumble down Grand Avenue between 69th Street and Rust Street. Most are passing between Long Island and Brooklyn, using Grand Avenue as a shortcut to bypass a congested stretch of the Long Island Expressway.Community Board 5 approved a Grand Avenue truck bypass in 2001 detouring non-local trucks down the Long Island Expressway service road between Maurice Avenue and 58th Street. The city Department of Transportation gave the plan a favorable review at a Queens Borough Hall “Truck Route Management and Community Impact Study Meeting” in 2003 but has yet to enact the proposal.”We're looking at the bypass plan as part of our citywide truck study that is currently underway,” said DOT spokeswoman Kay Sarlin.The DOT had hoped to complete the study in 12 to 18 months, but extended the deadline by several months due to the scope of the project. The department hopes to complete it by the end of the year, she said.Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 156.