The Queens delegation to the City Council wants to ratchet up the economic pressure on commercial truck drivers who illegally park their rigs on the borough’s streets.
Three large trucks, including a pair of 18-wheelers, served as an unwitting backdrop on Springfield Boulevard in Cambria Heights last Friday as Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) announced a pair of bills that have been introduced in the Council to try and rein in the big rigs.
The press conference, held one day after the Council passed a bill that significantly increases fines for everything from illegal dumping to throwing trash from a car window, was billed as a quality-of-life statement by Miller, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chairman of the Committee on the Environment.
Their location on Friday, at the intersection with 121st Avenue, was no accident.
“There are a few trucks here now, but come here after 4 p.m., especially on Friday and the weekend,” he said, “you could have 20 trucks parked along this road. And they keep the motors running because they’re in the cabs and then need air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.”
Not to mention the taking of on-street parking, and, Adams said, the danger of having to walk on sidewalks behind large trucks, largely obscured from view, giving cover to potential muggers and attackers.
Intro. 1011, the Commercial Truck Abuse Reduction Act, would cut the time that a tractor-trailer combination, truck or semi trailer can be parked in half, to 90 minutes from the existing limit of three hours.
Intro. 1011 would increase the fine for a first offense from $250 to $400; and subsequent violations in the next six months from $500 to $800.
Both are co-sponsored by Miller, Adams Constantinides, Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
“Right now, the fines are just considered the cost of doing business,” Miller said.
A spokesman for Koslowitz said most of their complaints are about trucks parked on the Grand Central Parkway service road.
Intro. 656, the Unlawful Commercial Dumping Act, which passed the Council on June 28, will, when signed by Mayor de Blasio, set a fine of $4,000 for a first offense of commercial dumping, followed by fines of $9,000 for repeat offenders. Vehicles impounded twice will be subject to forfeiture.
The fine for commercial dumping in or near a public litter basket will be $300 for a first offense, then climbing to $400.
Other speakers at the press conference included former Jamaica Councilman Archie Spigner; Community Board 13 District Manager Mark McMillan, and its chairman, Clive Williams, CB 12 Transportation Committee Chairwoman Michele Keller and Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP.
Constantinides said CBs 12 and 13 are subject to more truck issues with not only Kennedy and LaGuardia airports but nearby shipping and cargo facilities in an area criss-crossed by major highways.
“We see some of that in my own district, where trucks heading to and from LaGuardia use neighborhood streets even though the state has just [rebuilt] the Grand Central Parkway for them to use,” he said.
Miller said the dumping, aside from being unsightly, has caused a major problem with rats, and, left unattended or unenforced, invites more dumping.
He also said the new bills give DSNY inspectors more authority to search through illegally dumped material in order to find identifying information on the source.
Gadsden minced no words on the truck situation, saying truck owners and drivers are placing money over the health and safety of residential neighborhoods.
“This is an environmental justice issue, which makes it a civil rights issue,” he said. He added that aside from the idling with noise and fumes, sometimes the very contents can be hazardous, citing, among other things, Southeast Queens’ high incidence of asthma and cancer.
“Our most precious resources, our children, have to inhale these fumes as they move about in their community,” he said. Whatever waste is contained in those trucks ... is released into the air and then leaked into the soil.
“These semi tractor trailers loaded with their waste have turned our residential neighborhoods into temporary waste disposal sites.”
Adams and Miller mentioned a heavy-duty tow truck capable of towing 18 wheelers that the NYPD soon is expected to have for use in Queens — it is being paid for Borough President Melinda Katz and a state grant obtained by state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St Albans).
But Miller also said the bills for both the trucks and the dumping were the result of a long, often frustrating process.
“We’ve tried to fix a lot of problems by proposing bills only to find that those laws already exist — they just weren’t being enforced,” he said. “These bills were written in a way that encourages enforcement.”
The councilman also said they have tried in both instances to be very deliberate before submitting them to the Council at large for consideration.
He said, for example, that the NYPD has a very direct problem when it comes to seizing big rigs —namely, where to store them.
Miller said he and other community leaders are actively looking for multiple sites they could offer for the NYPD’s consideration.
“We want to avoid unintended consequences,” the councilman said.