Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Maspeth Truck Routes Unveiled

By Eric Yun

After ten years and numerous accidents and fatalities, it appears that there will be changes to truck routes in Maspeth. But is it too little too late?

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D- Maspeth) held a press conference Monday to announce the City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans to change Grand and Flushing avenues from a through truck route to a local truck route. What Markey might not have expected, however, was a group of protestors who questioned why it took so long for anything to be done.

Trucks have been a nuisance to the community for a decade, and in March, elected officials asked the DOT if they could change the route designation for Grand and Flushing avenues. Under the current designations, trucks that are not making local deliveries and originating from other boroughs or Long Island can cut through Maspeth on Grand and Flushing avenues.

The amount of trucks passing through Maspeth has become a quality of life issue with serious consequences. Trucks have killed numerous pedestrians in the area, most recently, eleven-year-old Freddy Endres.

It appears the DOT has listened. In an e-mail sent by Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy, the DOT plans to change Grand and Flushing avenues to Local Truck Routes. After a review from the city’s Law Department and public hearings, the rule will go into effect. The tentative time frame for this process is two and a half to three months.

“Please note that changing the truck route from ‘Through’ to ‘Local’ will continue to allow trucks to cross from Brooklyn into Queens (or Queens into Brooklyn) to make deliveries,” McCarthy wrote. “However, the local truck route designation will require that trucks traveling through Brooklyn and Queens to their final destinations would need to use the highway system.”

Markey hailed these new developments as a “great first step” in eliminating the truck traffic in Maspeth. “Everybody knows that big trucks don’t belong on local shopping streets. They kill retail business and they pollute the air,” Markey said in a press release. “They also create hazardous conditions for pedestrians, especially seniors and children.”

Changing Grand and Flushing avenues to local truck routes won’t solve all the problems Maspeth residents have with trucks. The DOT is also continuing to study the Maspeth Bypass and Intersection Normalization Study.

The Maspeth Bypass Plan was conceived a decade ago by community activists Frank Principe and Tony Nunziato. Instead of allowing trucks to roam through residential and main commercial district of Maspeth, the plan calls for trucks to be diverted around the town’s industrial areas. The first phase of the DOT study has been completed, but the second phase is still ongoing.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) hopes this announcement is the first step of fully im- plementing the Maspeth Bypass Plan, which would “improve the quality of life for our residents.”

Likewise, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) believes this will greatly improve the quality of life for residents. The plan makes sure that “Maspeth isn’t used as a doormat for other communities to make deliveries,” she added.

While this may be a victory for residents, there are many who feel their elected officials have acted too late. A group of about a dozen local residents attended Monday’s press conference to express their displeasure with the amount of time that has passed since the issue was first raised.

The slow implementation has left Markey with blood on her hands, said Lorraine Sciulli.

Robert Holden, President of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA), said Markey was “dangling a carrot” for constituents prior to Election Day, when she faces a challenge from Nunziato. “We came up with this recommendation in 2003,” Holden said.

A 2003 document submitted to the JPCA and New York City Trust did indeed give alternative suggestions to ease truck traffic in Maspeth, and converting Grand and Flushing Avenues to local truck routes were discussed.

Noting that the DOT did not send any officials, Holden called this typical Queens polit- ical grandstanding. Many in the group held protest signs reading “Shame on You, Marge,” referring to Assemblywoman Markey.

“The last person in the world that should announce this is Markey. While in office over 11 years she’s collected millions in taxpayer money and did absolutely nothing while the Maspeth was overrun with deadly truck traffic,” said Holden. “This announcement is nothing more than a repackaged pre-election scam.”

“Nothing was done,” said Nunziato. “The politicians did nothing.”

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