Community Board 5 residents say they are being inundated with trucks that are over the legally permissible size for New York City and some activists are threatening to block heavily congested streets with a pedestrian boycott if nothing is done about the problem.
“If we don’t start to see results we will shut down Grand Avenue in the spring,” said Tony Nunziato, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce. “We will not have our lives continuously endangered. We will not allow this to go on.”
Although 53-foot trailers without special permits are supposed to be limited to travelling on interstate highways, CB 5 residents say the trailers regularly travel down community streets, blocking traffic, knocking down telephone poles and tree branches, destroying curbs and even causing water main breaks.
“It’s upsetting when you’re pulling out or you’re making a turn and there are all these huge trucks there,” said Glendale resident Patricia Safini. “Something bad is going to happen.”
In addition to traffic problems, there have also been studies that show pollution levels and asthma rates for children within CB 5 are among the highest in the city.
More than a year ago, a study was done by the Queens Department of Transportation about the traffic problems caused by trucks around Grand Avenue, according to Nunziato. So far, he said, the community has not seen the results of the study. The community board even submitted its own plan for a truck route and is still waiting for a response from the agency.
“Everyone is dragging their feet,” Nunziato said. “The more they drag their feet the more the community is being dragged along underneath them.”
According to the DOT, trucks up to 55 feet in length can travel on certain interstates and designated truck routes in the city. They are allowed to take side streets close to the routes in order to get to their destinations.
However, residents say drivers are regularly breaking the law by travelling far from truck routes in order to find short cuts. Furthermore, large trailers that are not supposed to be within city limits often drive through neighborhood streets.
The NYPD has an enforcement unit with a mobile weighing station to crack down on offenders. But the problem has not been adequately addressed in CB 5, according to board members.
In Glendale, residents who live near the Atlas Terminal site say they are forced to regularly contend with trailers making deliveries to area warehouses.
“I know something is going to happen. Sooner or later there’s going to be an accident,” said Virgilio Mignardi, who lives on Doran Avenue. “Someone is going to get killed.”
According to CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr., one of the most egregious offenders of the law is a lighting installation company that occupies a warehouse at 70-32 84th Street. The community board has written four letters a week for the past several weeks complaining about an oversized trailer that makes deliveries to that address.
“These trucks shouldn’t be on our streets at all,” Arcuri said. “They are longer than what is legally permissible, they can’t maneuver as well as other vehicles and they cause traffic problems.”
Mignardi said that along his block, trailers frequently block entire streets when backing up or making turns. Neighbors are regularly prevented from leaving their driveways or getting to their own homes. “God forbid an emergency vehicle should have to get down the street. They wouldn’t be able to get through,” he said.
Damon Hemmerdinger, development director of Atco Properties and Management, and the landlord of the property at 70-32 84th Street, said he has forwarded letters to his tenants and asked them to comply with the law.
“I’m aware of the community board’s and our neighbor’s complaints. We’ve done everything we’ve been able to do,” he said. “We’ve told them they have to comply with the law. If they’re having deliveries that break the law it will be left to the police to continue to do their job.”
Besides the oversized trucks, residents around Atlas Terminal say since construction of a shopping center began in October, payloaders and even backhoes have been using their streets.
“This morning I almost got hit by a backhoe, it’s just terrible,” Safini said. “I could do with one or two trucks, but this is really dangerous. The street is simply not built for these huge vehicles.”
While some residents say the police should do more to address the problem, Arcuri believes the state should be responsible for preventing the trucks from crossing into New York City. “This is a good case for national security,” he said. “If nobody’s paying attention to these 53-foot trailers, what are they paying attention to?”