Last month, Councilmember John Liu, Chair of the NYC Council’s Transportation Committee, visited Maspeth to better understand the crisis of truck traffic in our neighborhood. Juniper Civic met with the councilman to formulate a strategy to move the stalled Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Plan onto the Department of Transportation’s fast track.*

While crossing the street from Enchanted Florist to The Good Diner, Liu couldn’t help but notice the congestion and pollution caused by the trucks that barrel up and down Grand Avenue during their runs. He inquired about how many trucks per day use the route, then said, “Whatever the number is, it’s obviously too many.”

Tony Nunziato, Chair of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force, Edward Kampermann, JPCA’s 2nd Vice President and Chair of the Transportation Committee, Councilman Liu and I sat around a table at The Good Diner during the afternoon of Tuesday, August 5, 2008. Joining us was Shin-pei Tsay, Planning Director of Transportation Alternatives, an organization whose missions include pedestrian advocacy and traffic calming in New York City. Over soft drinks, we discussed the logistics of the current and proposed routes and brought everyone up to speed on the timeline of the plan and the reasons we have been given for why it has not yet been implemented.

As mentioned in the June issue of the Juniper Berry, DOT’s stated reason for the delay was that the complicated intersection of 58th Street, Maspeth and Maurice Avenues needed to be reconfigured. While the project still appears on DOT’s published agendas, Maspeth residents have been waiting over two years for the first phase to be started.

Phase 1 of the Bypass Plan was supposed to be the placement of signs at intersections along Flushing Avenue directing the trucks toward Grand Avenue via 53rd and 54th Streets. From there, drivers would naturally turn onto Rust Street rather than head through residential Maspeth to get to the Long Island Expressway. Phase 1 could be implemented at any time with or without Phase 2.

(Instead, signs were placed by DOT along Flushing Avenue indicating that trucks should proceed right up Grand. This was done at the behest of former Councilman Gallagher.)

At the end of July, DOT Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy was asked about the status of the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Plan by a member of the audience at a public meeting.

From the Forum West:

McCarthy, of the DOT, acknowledged that the project has been delayed, but said it is moving forward, with the help of $500,000 provided by Congressman Anthony Weiner. “I guess it’s going to sound like I’m making excuses, and maybe I am, but it has taken a very long time,” she said. “I know it’s not as quick as you would like, but we are moving forward.”

On August 21st, NY1 aired a report by Ruschell Boone about the truck situation on Grand Avenue. DOT responded to Ms. Boone’s inquiry with the following statement:

“In order to identify the best ways to reduce truck congestion in the Maspeth area and to identify the capital improvements needed for a bypass to be successful, we intend to begin an engineering study soon. This study is a recommendation made during a previous review of the area.”

Juniper Civic and the residents of Maspeth would like to know how many more studies are needed to hang signs along Grand and Flushing Avenues and to send trucks down what is already a truck route.

Councilman Liu and Ms. Tsay have been in contact with DOT officials and are pressing for the commencement of the Bypass Plan. We have provided them with copies of our correspondence with the City and the original truck study.

*Our council representative, Anthony Como, was invited to this meeting by Councilman Liu’s office but he stated that he had a scheduling conflict and would not be able to attend. He also declined to send a representative from his office.

This is about more than trucks

Shin-pei mentioned that after disembarking the bus on her way to our meeting, she crossed the treacherous triangular intersection of Flushing, Grand and Maspeth Avenues. Tony explained that St. Stanislaus was chosen to be part of DOT’s “Safe Streets to School” program earlier this year because its students would benefit from traffic calming at this intersection – but that this troublesome coming together of major roads cannot be reconfigured until after the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Plan is put in place. The St. Stanislaus problem and proposed solution can be viewed on DOT’s website