By Eric Yun
The anger level of Maspeth residents has reached an all-time high after a large tanker truck struck and killed 12-year-old Frederick Endres at the intersection of Fresh Pond Road and Eliot Avenue, which is not a truck route.
“We’re battling this for almost ten years,” said longtime Maspeth civic activist Anthony Nun- ziato, referring to the neighborhood’s battle to get trucks rerouted and away from its residential areas.
According to Nunziato, local elected officials and other civic leaders, all pleas have fallen on the deaf ears of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT).
The heart of Maspeth, which is adjacent to the Long Island Expressway (LIE), receives an inordinate amount of traffic. And because of current DOT routes, trucks are able to exit the LIE and use Grand and Flushing avenues as a through route to Brooklyn, or travel from Brooklyn to access the LIE without making local deliveries.
Frustrated local leaders gathered for a press conference last March to address the issue. “For far too long the DOT has ignored the traffic problems in Maspeth... and has allowed trucks to use [the neighborhood] as a dumping ground,” City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), said at the time. The DOT has yet to take action on that request.
In 2001, Nunziato and members of Community Board 5 came up with the Maspeth Bypass Plan, which is still awaiting approval from the DOT. The plan calls for changes in route designations so trucks go around Maspeth to get to the LIE or stay on the expressway to enter Brooklyn.
But Flushing and Grand avenues are not the only problems Maspeth residents face with trucks. Roe Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together (COMET), complains that trucks frequently use local routes to cut through traffic when they are not making local deliveries—a prohibited action. Daraio says of particular concern is 69th Street and Maspeth Avenue, which runs near schools.
Another problem, according to Daraio, is the lack of enforcement. “Unfortunately there are far more trucks than police officers and most officers are not familiar with the various sum- monses that can be issued to truckers other than off-route summonses.” In addition to beefed up enforcement, Daraio says that clear signage on the roads for truck drivers would be helpful.
Fresh Pond Road is a local truck route that represents a major concern, because trucks can use it to reach Grand Avenue and other main arteries not designated as truck routes.
Nunziato maintains that he is sick of waiting for city officials to move on the project. “The Mayor has made Manhattan a mecca for bikes and pedestrians overnight,” he said. “What’s
the difference in Queens? Studies upon studies upon studies, and they never did anything.”
“This community is devastated by the loss of an innocent child, riding his bicycle a block from his home,” said Nunziato. “If anyone thinks we don’t have something to scream about let’s consider the fact that Times Square, one of the busiest streets in the world was transformed into a “pedestrian lounge” in what seemed like 10 minutes. Here in Maspeth we’re waiting for more than 10 years and we can’t get it done. How sickening.”
And now, more than a week after the tragic accident that killed Freddy Endres, Maspeth residents continue to flock to the corner where the accident occurred to leave bouquets and messages.
Among them are mothers who fear for their children’s safety. “We have all these politicians that are supposed to protect us. Where are they?” asked Lena, who lives around the block from the accident. “I read that [State Assemblywoman]Marge Markey was trying to fix the problem by November. “Of course she says that. It’s election time. Where has she been all this time? What the hell has she done?”
Repeated requests made to the DOT for comment were ignored.