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DOT truck proposal riles Maspeth residents

The city Department of Transportation unveiled its long-awaited Maspeth truck bypass proposal last Thursday, but could not circumvent some criticism from fed-up residents.

The proposal is designed to reroute trucks that currently get off of the Long Island Expressway and clog the neighborhood via Grand and Flushing avenues in order to get to destinations in the industrial portion of Maspeth or to avoid the traffic-laden Kosciuszko Bridge into Brooklyn. As a preliminary step, the DOT will be designating Grand and Flushing avenues as for local only traffic by March 25, which means only trucks whose point of origin or destination is in the borough can use the streets.

The long-term plan will designate a new truck route through Maspeth using 58th Street and Maurice Avenue instead, according to the DOT.

Trucks can head south down 58th Street from the LIE or north on Maurice toward it. Both will become one-way streets.

The DOT’s plan hinged on redirecting traffic at a treacherous five-way intersection at Maurice and Maspeth avenues and 58th Street and designating several streets as one-way.

And that caused residents like Vincent Weiss to become skeptical of the proposal.

“This is killing us,” he said. “Imagine waking up and seeing 10 tractor-trailers lined up on a residential block.”

Weiss took issue with an earlier one-way lane designation on Maspeth Avenue that has caused a backlog of the large vehicles near his house.

He brought along a three-ring binder full of pictures showing trucks stuck at small intersections and stuck next to children playing in the street.

Other residents raised similarly nuanced problems on specific side streets and corners, and often offered photographic evidence as proof.

Tony Nunziato, a community activist who has already proposed a different bypass route, told representatives from the DOT that the plan did not do enough to address the congestion along Flushing Avenue.

“If it doesn’t bypass everybody’s house, we don’t want it,” he said.

Throughout the evening, representatives from the DOT had to walk a fine line between patiently explaining the plan to the testy residents and absorbing their criticism for use in another version of the proposal.

“When we put out a proposal, we don’t expect everybody to love it. The negative comments we get are helpful,” said Maura McCarthy, the Queens DOT commissioner. “I think it was a good exchange. A lot of people came out.”

Representatives from the DOT repeatedly explained that new signage along the LIE and in the neighborhood would be the key factor in funneling the trucks onto the right streets and would eliminate many of the problems that residents expressed.

But Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Valley Civic Association, did not think it was enough.

“It’s only advisory,” he said. “I don’t have any faith in signage. I have faith in writing [truckers] up for a ticket.”

But not all the comments were negative. Some longtime residents thought the plan would be effective as it was presented.

“It sounds okay,” shrugged Rose Bencivenga, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years. “When I first lived here, we were the only family with a car. Now you can’t find a parking space.”

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) expressed her approval as well.

“I’m curious to hear the feedback. In a perfect world, everybody would be happy,” she said. “But I think this is a step in the right direction. This is a plan that makes sense.

The department will also digest any criticism from the meeting and use it to present a revised proposal in the next few months.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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