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Maspeth leaders call for end to truck route

The city’s study on a truck bypass that would send commercial traffic around downtown Maspeth may be underway, but 18-wheelers still clog Grand and Flushing avenues, prompting elected and civic leaders to call on the city Department of Transportation to ban the vehicles immediately.

Convincing the city to change Grand Avenue to a local truck route from a route that allows commercial traffic to drive through Maspeth to Brooklyn has long been a pet cause of the Juniper Park Civic Association, but City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) has thrown her weight behind the issue.

Her office brought out U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), state Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Ridgewood) and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) — all of whom called on the DOT to make the change.

The route enables truckers to avoid the often-clogged interchange between the Long Island and Brooklyn-Queens expressways.

“It will still be years from now before the community sees any benefit,” Elizabeth Crowley said, referring to a $150,000 engineering analysis of a truck bypass plan that would send commercial traffic down Maurice Avenue and then Rust Street. “The DOT needs to do the right thing for Queens.”

The results of the DOT study are due in September, Markey’s office said.

Markey said she recently again sponsored a bill in the Assembly that would provide funding for traffic cameras to enforce things like commercial truck bans on surface streets.

“We can have all the plans we want, but if we do not have the enforcement of regulations, all is for naught,” she said.

Jim O’Kane, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, said seniors living in Maspeth are intimidated by the volume of big rigs driving down the streets.

“It really is a safety issue,” Addabbo said. “Why should we wait for someone to get hurt?”

The idea for a Maspeth truck bypass was first floated by Maspeth florist and Juniper Park Civic member Tony Nunziato. It was endorsed by Community Board 5 in 2001.

He and Juniper Civic President Robert Holden were present at the news conference Friday, but had some harsh words for some of the elected officials whom they accused of inaction over a decade.

“We appreciate Elizabeth Crowley taking the leadership on this, but frankly I’m surprised a couple of elected officials even dared show their face,” Holden said, complaining that Weiner’s office did not respond when Holden sent the congressman a copy of a 2003 traffic study the civic conducted with the help of the group Transportation Alternatives. “They get their picture in the paper and then they disappear.”

Lydon Sleeper, Elizabeth Crowley’s chief of staff, interceded on behalf of the other elected officials.

“We are here now to make this go through,” he said. “What you’re doing is you’re sitting here bashing the people who just did that and that’s not right.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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