Cries For Change Amidst Maspeth Truck Traffic

Cries For Change Amidst Maspeth Truck Traffic

For Anna Zavalunov, life in Maspeth has become almost unbearable.

Massive tractor-trailers, in attempts to avoid traffic on the Long Island Expressway, constantly speed by the Grand Avenue home where she has lived for years – and the nearly non-stop honking and concerns about the safety of her two small children have made her question whether or not she can remain in the place she wanted to raise a family.

Residents, civic leaders and legislators gathered in Maspeth last Thursday to protest trucks continuing to use Flushing and Grand avenues to avoid traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

Residents, civic leaders and legislators gathered in Maspeth last Thursday to protest trucks continuing to use Flushing and Grand avenues to avoid traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

“It’s a very low quality of life here,” Zavalunov said. “It’s very dangerous for the little kids. The trucks speed, and they go up on the sidewalks. I don’t want to sell the house because I want to live here and I want my kids to go to school here, but I’m not going to have much of a choice if this continues.”

Zavalunov was one of dozens of people who gathered at the corner of Grand Avenue, Flushing Avenue and 64th Street in Maspeth last Thursday to protest the large trucks using the neighborhood to bypass the LIE and urge city officials to finally stamp out the problem that has plagued the area for years. The protest was organized by the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together Civic Association.

In response to complaints from area legislators and civic leaders, the city in 2011 implemented what is known as the Maspeth truck bypass – a route that was meant to funnel truck traffic off of Grand and Flushing avenues. The city also labeled Grand and Flushing avenues as local truck routes – meaning only vehicles making deliveries in the area are supposed to use the streets dotted with residences and small shops – though residents say truck drivers flagrantly disobey this.

“I’ve lived here for 52 years, and there are more trucks now than there ever were,” said Robert Trefcer. “I saw eight tractor-trailers speeding down here at two in the morning the other day. This year is the worst. There’s more traffic here than 42nd Street in Manhattan.”

While 104th Precinct officers said they give summons for truck drivers who violate the law, civic leaders, including Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden, said the drivers will get away with continuing to use residential Maspeth roads because traffic court judges will toss the tickets, saying it is still lawful for the drivers to use the roads because the city Department of Transportation has not updated its truck route map to reflect the changes.

“We’re stuck here,” said Richie Polgar, a Maspeth resident who attended the rally. “Traffic is terrible; they’re damaging our roads. They get lost on the side streets and bump into wires and damage cars.”

Lilian Rankin, who lives on Flushing Avenue, said the truck traffic is so bad that it daily rattles her china cabinets.

“Something has to change,” Rankin said.

According to Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), that something includes the DOT updating its maps so the court will have teeth when it comes to penalizing drivers that have received summonses.

“The police are ticketing the trucks, but the court is getting away with saying there’s no map,” Crowley said. “The DOT needs to update the map and put up more signs.”

The legislator also said pollution from the truck traffic is a serious concern in an area with high rates of asthma.

“It’s not just the noise factor but the air pollution that’s a problem,” Crowley said. “I believe Maspeth is cleaner today than in 2011, but we’re still not where we need to be.”

Craig Caruana, who is running against Crowley for her City Council seat, too said relief must come for area residents.

“If the city enforced its own laws, this wouldn’t be an issue,” Caruana said.

By Anna Gustafson


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