Maspeth residents have road rage for big rig drivers.
Community leaders and residents held a rally at the intersection of 64th Street and Flushing Avenue on June 20 to bring attention to a perceived excess of tractor trailer traffic in the area.
Residents have long contended drivers ignore laws and use residential streets as shortcuts to avoid traffic on the Long Island Expressway. They say the trucks increase noise and pollution in the community and are calling for more enforcement by police.
“Maspeth deserves a community with fewer trucks,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said. “It’s one thing to have local deliveries, but it’s another thing to have huge trucks.”
In 2011, the city passed the Maspeth Bypass plan to prevent trucks from using local streets to make deliveries.
However, Crowley and others say drivers continue to exit the expressway and use Flushing and Grand Avenues when going to Brooklyn due to a lack of signs that direct trucks to streets they may use, and the fact the official truck map does not reflect changes in the plan. The Department of Transportation (DOT) maintains a map showing approved paths for trucks.
The 104th Precinct said while officers do ticket trucks for infractions, judges throw the cases out on grounds the signs and maps have not been changed.
“We’ve been trying to get the map adjusted, but as it stands, it still is a lawful route,” said Lieutenant George Hellmer of the 104th Precinct. Locals say the trucks — most of them 16- and 18-wheelers, but sometimes longer — rattle houses and awaken people when they go by as early as 2 a.m.
Residents also say the traffic light at 64th Street and Flushing Avenue has been knocked over and fixed multiple times as trucks have struggled to turn off Grand Avenue onto Flushing Avenue.
Residents are also concerned about children, citing an August 2010 incident in which a truck struck and killed 12-year-old Frederick Endres while the boy was riding his bicycle on Fresh Pond Road.
“This is a residential area and people just want to have peaceful lives,” said Anna Zacalunov, who lives on Grand Avenue.
As the rally progressed, residents counted the number of trucks that drove by. In an hour-and-a-half, more than 250 tractor trailers of varying sizes were seen up and down the intersection.
“They don’t care. They are giving us the finger, some of them,” said Roe Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together (COMET), the civic association that organized the rally. “Laws with no enforcement mean nothing.”
The next step for the community is to meet with DOT to get the maps changed and signs put up.
But not all residents think drivers are the only ones to blame.
“Also, I think they should ticket the dispatcher,” said Maspeth resident Bob Nastasi. “He’s the one telling these out-of-state guys where to go.”