Trucks will soon be banned from the Grand Avenue commercial district except those making local deliveries. The formal announcement won’t come until later this month but the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force got the word last month from a person who should know.

Responding to a letter from Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, Mayor Bloomberg directed the Commissioner of Transportation Iris Weinshall to meet with Holden and representatives of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force.The topic of the September 27th meeting: trucks, that have essentially been terrorizing Grand Avenue in Maspeth for several years.Thousands of trucks each day have been rumbling through Maspeth and Middle Village, especially down Grand Avenue spewing cancer-causing pollution, endangering pedestrians & motorists and damaging property and local infrastructure.

In 2001 Tony Nunziato, now chairman of the Maspeth-Middle Task Force, devised a plan to keep trucks on the Long Island Expressway and not Grand Avenue. Maspeth, and Grand Avenue in particular, is “a truck horror show,” said Nunziato, who is also Chair of Community Board 5’s Environmental Committee. He worked with the late civic leader, Frank Principe and the two conducted a study partially funded by the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce. The study found that an average of more than 500 large trucks, including 200 that transport wastes, rumble along the stretch of Grand Avenue from 69th Street to Rust Street each day.

Today those numbers have nearly doubled. Most of the vehicles are on their way to and from eastern Long Island to Brooklyn, and use Grand Avenue in Maspeth as a short cut alternative to what is the most congested part of the Long Island Expressway.

Civic leaders have expressed fears for the safety of pedestrians particularly children and seniors. However the neighborhood’s greatest hazards is air quality, already deemed unacceptable by federal standards.Truck exhaust fumes seep odorless and cancer causing toxins into the air that Maspeth residents breathe. Grand Avenue one of the best-kept and cleanest commercial strips in Queens, nonetheless shares pollution-related health problems with
the rest of the Maspeth/Middle Village neighborhoods that are part of the city’s “Asthma Belt,” which includes Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods adjacent to the Expressway and other major automotive arteries.

In June 2001, Community Board 5 presented a Maspeth/Grand Avenue truck bypass plan that was approved unanimously by the board and later presented to the DOT. The plan called for trucks to be rerouted away from the aforementioned stretch of Grand Avenue, “just as they are off Main Street in every town in America,” said Nunziato. The Grand Avenue/Maspeth by-pass plan calls for trucks to exit at Maurice Avenue and proceed to 58th Street in West Maspeth instead of Grand Avenue.

At a Truck Route Management and Community Impact Study meeting in July 2003 in Queens Borough Hall, representatives from DOT praised the Maspeth Bypass plan as “a type of creative solutions DOT is looking for to mitigate the negative impacts of trucks.”

“That’s the last we heard of the plan, it has been over 4 years and there have been absolutely no progress or decision on the truck bypass plan,” said Nunziato.

Until now that is. Commissioner Weinshall announced that at the Mayor’s urging, Grand Avenue will soon be off-limits to trucks and the Maspeth by-pass plan will be implemented as part of the city-wide revamping of truck routes.

Weinshall promised that the plan will be approved in December 2005 and implemented within a short period thereafter. Maspeth will be given the highest priority in the new truck route plan, said Weinshall. Both Nunziato and Holden praised the decision and it will be a big boost to the area particularly the Grand Avenue commercial strip.

Holden and the JPCA have been working on improving the safety of the area. In 2003 the JPCA received a grant from Transportation Alternatives and with top experts in traffic calming and control, devised a plan to make the area around the LIE, Grand Avenue and 69th Street safer for pedestrians. Holden has asked for funding for the project from Congressmen Crowley and Weiner and Mayor Bloomberg.

In the meantime, Captain Shanley together with the Sergeant Johnston, NYPD Truck Enforcement and the State DOT will contact random enforcement and weigh stations to check the safety of the vehicles. When the Maspeth Bypass is implemented police details will be needed to “remind” truck drivers of the new rules, “No Trucks on Grand Avenue except Local Deliveries.” Sounds great!