“When asked if the truck route plan would include a proposed Maspeth Bypass, a plan which would reportedly divert trucks off Grand Avenue and through industrial sections of West Maspeth, [Dan] Ross, [community coordinator with the DOT’s Queens Borough Commissioner’s office] noted that the bypass would be implemented once the intersection of Maspeth and Maurice avenues is reconstructed.” – Times Newsweekly, 2/8/07
Tony Nunziato, owner of Enchanted Florist on Grand Avenue in Maspeth, is appalled at the constant stream of trucks that passes outside his store window. “The Department of Transportation was supposed to put an end to this problem more than 2 years ago,” he says in frustration. “I go outside to talk to customers and I can’t even hear what they are saying to me.”
Years ago, Tony received a letter from the principal of St. Stanislaus elementary school lamenting the fact that teachers had to keep classroom windows closed because the air outside was being saturated with noise and pollution that was harmful to the students and faculty.
That was when Tony decided that something needed to be done. He examined the situation and realized that the majority of trucks were coming down Grand Avenue from Brooklyn in order to get to the Long Island Expressway to continue their journeys to points further east.
“With all of the truck routes available in the western part of town, it was ridiculous that they were being allowed to come through the residential area of Maspeth,” he said.
Back when Frank Principe was still alive and chairman of Community Board 5, Tony, as Chair of CB5’s Environmental Committee, brought this issue to him and informed him that something needed to be done to divert traffic off Grand Avenue, the main street through the heart of Maspeth.
Frank’s first reaction to Tony was that there wasn’t any way of rerouting trucks off Grand Avenue and that it couldn’t happen. But after Tony explained his idea, a spark lit up in Frank’s eyes and he agreed that it most certainly could and should happen. After Frank redefined the route which he knew would work, they rolled up their sleeves and started doing their homework.
Frank sat outside Tony’s store in a lawn chair with a clicker, counting the trucks that went by. There were tens of thousands of trucks, mostly tractor trailers that emitted diesel fumes, passing through the commercial strip on a daily basis. This was not only bringing unwanted noise and traffic to the area, but the pollution was also creating a health hazard.
“We agreed that trucks could easily be sent down Rust Street, and they then could either take 58th Street or Maurice Avenue to get to the Long Island Expressway,” Tony said. He hoped that the Department of Transportation would agree with Frank and him that tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles should be forced to the outskirts of the populated areas of Maspeth in order to get to the highway.
Unfortunately, Frank passed away in 2004, but Tony vowed to see their plan come to fruition. In 2005, Tony presented the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Plan to DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall. She liked the idea and approved the implementation of the plan. There was just one glitch – the intersection of Maspeth Avenue, Maurice Avenue and 58th Street in West Maspeth needed to be reconfigured before trucks could be forced down Rust Street. This seemed simple enough, but city bureaucracy being what it is, this small problem has held up the institution of the bypass plan for more than 3 years now.
Ms. Weinshall said she expected the plan to be in place by 2006, however, that did not happen. In 2007, she resigned as commissioner of DOT and was replaced by Janette Sadik-Khan, who seems more interested in congestion pricing schemes and getting commuters to use bicycles. The Grand Avenue Bypass Plan has been put on the back burner by the Bloomberg Administration, as have many other simple initiatives meant to improve the quality-of-life in our area.
Another thing we have been lacking is advocacy by our elected officials. If they had been pushing for this plan to become a reality, it most likely would have been put in place already. Assemblywoman Marge Markey and Congressman Anthony Weiner have done little if anything to alleviate truck traffic on Grand Avenue. Markey’s biggest contribution over the past two years was a photo op announcing that new signs directing drivers to the LIE were erected at major intersections in Maspeth. Weiner actually advocated for the Cross Harbor Tunnel project, which would have brought tens of thousands more trucks to Maspeth.
Former Council Member Dennis Gallagher actually asked DOT to erect a previously non-existent sign informing truck drivers that the easiest way for them to get to the LIE was to barrel down Grand Avenue – exactly what Tony and Frank had fought against.
This is one of the many reasons why Tony has decided to run for the state assembly.
“It’s really sickening that this has been stalled for so long,” Tony said. “There’s no excuse for it, and the people in power seem complacent with allowing it to continue. We can’t have that. Their lack of attention is killing us.”