Friday, November 26, 2010

Illega Races a Drag for Maspeth Residents

By Eric Yun

“Stop your engines and get off our streets,” was the rallying cry from Maspeth residents who are fed up with drag races along Maurice Avenue. They are now calling on the city Department of Transportation (DOT) to step in and install speed bumps in the area.

“I can’t sleep,” said resident Armand Gapkowski, who has started a petition that has amassed more than 60 signatures asking the DOT to install a speed bump.

Residents explained that the racers go through painstaking measures to avoid capture from police and interference from other drivers. They frequently block side roads and intersections with their cars, which often leads to more noise as other drivers honk their horns attempting to get through.

And it’s not like the residents can politely go to the street and ask the drivers to stop. They fear the crowd is too big and too dan- gerous. Calls to 911, residents have found, are not answered quickly enough to disperse the large crowds on their street.

In addition to the serious safety hazards of drag races, residents of Maspeth are constantly bombarded with sound pollution from passing and idling trucks at night.    Nobody wants to add revving engines or squealing tires to the list of night-time annoyances.

“Never again. We cannot tolerate illegal drag racing on Maurice Avenue or anywhere in Maspeth,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

Van Bramer, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) and concerned citizens joined together on the corner of Maurice and Tyler avenues on Monday and demanded action to stop the illegal races.

Drag racing in the area has been a problem for at least 20 years. However, with the recent repaving of Maurice Avenue, the problem has intensified.

“Maurice Avenue was not repaved for idiots to drive 100 miles per hour,” Van Bramer

Roe Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET), said the DOT must do something before someone is seriously injured. “The DOT has to take the bull by the horn and come up with a solution,” she said.

The simplest solution is to have a speed bump or rumble strips on the street to stop the races. A DOT spokesperson said the department is reviewing a request to install two speed bumps on Maurice Avenue along Tyler Avenue that do not interfere with the MTA bus route.

Maurice Avenue serves as a boundary line for the 104th and 108th police precincts, which make it difficult to ascertain who is responsible for patrolling the area and who should respond when    someone calls police about drag racing. Van Bramer and Crowley said that both precincts have been made aware of the problem and have promised to be more responsive to complaints to catch those racing illegally.

Deputy Inspector Keith Green of the 104th Precinct also spoke about increased cooperation with the 108th Precinct at last week’s COP 104 meeting.

The politicians promised they would work together to make drag racing a relic of the past.

“Drag racing is not welcome here in Maspeth, or anywhere in the city of New York,” said Crowley. “It must stop.”

To illustrate the dangers of drag racing, Van Bramer’s office has reposted a YouTube video showing a drag race on Maurice Avenue. The two cars line up side by side, and after a count, both cars take off in discordant sound. But moments later, one of the cars spins out of control and slams into some parked cars. After taking a moment to recover, the driver flees the scene.

“What if the car had spun out of control into the people foolish enough to watch the race?” Van Bramer asked.

It’s time to put an end to the races, Van Bramer said, before someone ends up in adjacent Mt. Zion Cemetery.

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