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Put brakes on drag races

Jean Claude Calvez (l.-r.), president of the Wynwoode Gardens Homeowners Association; Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, Thomas Irwin of Maspeth and Richard Gundlach of Woodside attend a protest against drag racing organized by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rebecca Henely

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and state Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) joined with residents of Maurice Avenue Monday to request cooperation in stopping the drag racing they say is a weekly occurrence on this street.

“Illegal drag racing is not a nuisance. It is a life-threatening situation,” Van Bramer said.

Roe Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together, said drag racing has been a problem in the community for around 25 to 30 years.

“It’s been this way for years and no one has ever addressed it,” said Madeline O’Boyle, a resident of Maurice Avenue near Tyler Street.

O’Boyle said that every Friday and Saturday during good weather and sometimes on the weekdays drag racers — most of whom range from teenagers to men in their 30s — congregate in the surrounding areas late at night and race down Maurice Avenue from Tyler Avenue to the traffic light at 53rd Drive, usually for 20 minutes until they are chased away by the police.

“I call the police precinct every week,” she said.

Van Bramer said this causes a situation that is dangerous for the racers but also those who watch the race from the sidelines and residents in the community.

Crowley said the police are aware of the situation and have ticketed some racers and made arrests.

“Drag racers need to be aware they’re not welcome here in Maspeth,” Crowley said.

Nevertheless, policing the area has caused some problems because Maurice Avenue — which is close to Woodside — is on the dividing line between the 104th and 108th precincts, Van Bramer said.

“We are calling for increased cooperation between the two precincts,” Van Bramer said.

But many urged the city Department of Transportation to do something to slow the traffic, such as installing a speed bump, another traffic light or speed grooves, Van Bramer said.

Markey also suggested red light cameras.

“This has gone on for much too long,” she said.

The DOT said safety is a priority and the department is in the process of reviewing two requests for speed humps.

Van Bramer said he believed the problem could be solved with cooperation.

“I know working together Maspeth will see a better day,” he said. “Maurice Avenue will be a lot safer.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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