Rally Against Maspeth Route
By Cristina Guarino
Elected officials joined residents of Maspeth at noon on Friday, March 5, in a rally to press the Department of Transportation to change Grand, Flushing and Myrtle Avenues from through routes to local routes.
A through route allows trucks to travel from borough to borough while avoiding highways. The Maspeth through route connects Queens and Brooklyn; according to Elizabeth Crowley, it is the only through route allowed in the city, used by large 18- and 20-wheeler trucks to avoid the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Long Island Expressway. In her words, the trucks use the residential Maspeth streets as "a dumping ground", in no way benefiting the community and contributing to hazardous conditions.
The concerns involve much more than traffic buildup. According to O'Kane, pedestrians are threatened by the large trucks that pass through. This becomes a deciding factor--especially with seniors--on whether or not to shop in the area, which affects the economy and small businesses. In Elizabeth Crowley's words, the through route "hinders the economy".
Aside from a popular shopping site, the area is also lined with residential buildings. The trucks that pass through cause both noise and air pollution that irritate the residents and affect their health; in fact, Maspeth has some of the highest asthma rates in Queens, and has been the site of many cancer-related deaths. The constant emissions of lead, diesel, soot, and other toxins from the trucks are certainly factors in the declining health of the residents, the speakers noted.
There is also a safety issue related to the trucks; Weiner called crossing the streets "a full contact sport", as pedestrians are constantly "dodging trucks". A concerned resident, Manny Caruana, complained that his 94-year-old father has trouble crossing the avenues, which is essential in navigating the area. Addabbo recalled an incident last summer in which a truck coming from the Long Island Expressway to Grand Avenue tipped over. Though nobody was hurt, the senator argued that there is no reason to wait until somebody gets injured. Trucks frequently run onto the sidewalks in their attempts to make wide turns onto the avenues, in some cases knocking over light poles and endangering passersby.
City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer called the attention of those who attended to the conditions surrounding them. During the rally, the trucks passing by made it impossible to hear some of the speakers, forcing them to shout over the noise. Those huddled on the edges of the triangle between Flushing and Grand Avenues had to press forward to avoid the trucks. Almost as if on queue, a suffocating draft of diesel fuel passed through the crowd as the topic of health was under discussion. The attendees were also treated to a first-hand demonstration of a truck just barely missing the sidewalk as it made a wide turn onto Flushing Avenue.
The goal is to change the avenues from through routes to local routes and put up signs prohibiting trucks from passing through. When asked whether or not the trucks would actually adhere to this new policy, Van Bramer replied that they had to. "They can't be using local roads for this kind of traffic," he said. "They have to stick to the highways; it's what they're there for." He went on to call the through route "counter productive" as it discourages business, "defeating the purpose of local commercial strips".
Residents and officials are perplexed as to what is taking so long for the route change to be effected. Traffic buildup on the typical truck routes began in 1999. The bypass was created in 2001 and originally thought to be a good solution. In 2003, Transportation Alternatives provided a $30,000 grant to propose the change of the through route to a local route, which was given to all elected officials; the change was planned to take place in 2006, but fell through. More than 10 years after the initial problem, it is still yet to be implemented.
The issue is no small matter to the residents. "When people are pushed to the brink, they take action. Are you listening, Mr. Mayor? We have had it", Caruana shouted. A heated argument occurred at the end of the question and answer portion of the rally between Holden and a Markey representative over alleged official lack of dedication to the plan.
Submitted by volunteer on March 18, 2010 - 16:19. categories [ ]