Whitestone’s narrow streets make it a difficult neighborhood for even the most skilled drivers to maneuver through. Driving an 18-wheeler through the residential parts of the neighborhood, then, might seem like a fool’s errand to some.
And yet, that happens on a regular basis in Whitestone, much to residents’ chagrin.
The most common area of concern is along the waterfront commercial space along Powells Cove Boulevard. Despite there being a truck route along Clintonville Street off of the Cross Island Parkway, according to Marlene Cody, vice president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, trucks frequently get off the Whitestone Bridge and continue driving along Third Avenue to access Powells Cove Boulevard instead.
“They’re going past the park where there’s a lot of people now, especially with the warm weather, and they barrel down really fast,” she said, referring to Francis Lewis Park.
Nor is the truck traffic limited to any particular time of day, footage from Cody’s street camera, some of which she shared with the Chronicle, shows. “It’s all different times — seven in the morning, one in the afternoon, three in the morning, four in the morning, five in the morning — all different hours,” Cody said.
The speed bumps along Third Avenue offer little relief. “They go over those — it’s a nightmare,” Cody said.
Nicolette Pace, who has also seen trucks drive there frequently, agreed. “As soon as somebody finishes the speed bumps, they’re home free,” she said.
Pace added that one of those trucks had crushed a bush in her yard trying to make a sharp turn. But as far as property damage goes, a bush is the least of residents’ concerns. Cody said that some members of the GWTCA are concerned that trucks’ use of the road may cause their pipes or the water main to break.
According to James Cervino, Community Board 7’s environmental chair, using Powells Cove Boulevard as an informal truck route could be environmentally damaging, as the weight may be too much for the road to bear, not to mention the dust and debris that could potentially spill from the trucks.
Cody says the truck traffic has been an issue “for months.” But it’s not a new problem, per se; Flushing land use expert Paul Graziano recalled a similar period about 10 years ago.
“Since then it’s calmed down,” he said. “But this spring was unbearable.” Graziano said that he’s even joined a borough-wide task force designed to tackle both truck traffic and illegal truck parking, the latter of which remains a consistent problem, especially in Eastern Queens.
Community Board 7 Chair Gene Kelty said truck traffic has been a large source of complaints as of late. He theorized that part of the issue is that truck drivers are not using commercial GPSs, causing them to head down residential streets. He also said the Department of Transportation has been asked to put up positive signage, directing drivers to the Clintonville truck route.
Councilmember Vickie Paladino (R-Whitestone) said she has made similar requests, and that the issue is one she has “been monitoring very closely.” She also has asked that missing signage be replaced.
Cody also told the Chronicle that all of the trucks seem to be headed to one lot in particular at the corner of Sixth Road and 151st Street, at the end of Powells Cove Boulevard. City records show that the lot — which does not have an address, but is Lot 149 on Block 4487 — is owned by Grahel Associates, which court records say is “in the business of owning and leasing certain real property in Queens.”
“It’s just trucks that they take back and forth. I don’t believe they bring anything back here,” Cody said. She estimated that as many as 30 trucks are parked in the lot on a given day (although most were gone when the Chronicle visited the site earlier this week).
Linda DeSabato, the owner of what was Vallo Transportation (now Citibus) next door, said that to her knowledge, there had not been a change in ownership of the lot. She did not know what kind of trucks were headed there.
Cody also said that the 109th Precinct of the NYPD had, at one point, placed officers nearby in hopes of finding the trucks in question, but without success. The precinct’s neighborhood coordination officers did not respond to the Chronicle’s queries.