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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Malba Gardens wants sign telling tractors to stay out

A group of Whitestone residents want the city to put up a simple sign that would stop tractor trailers from barreling through their neighborhood, but the city said no 10 years ago and the answer still stands.

Alfredo Centola first brought up the idea to the city Department of Transportation about a decade ago.

Malba Gardens Exit 3 is the last exit before the Whitestone Bridge. In addition to serving the Malba Gardens neighborhood just east of the bridge, it can also serve as the last escape for confused motorists who want to avoid the toll and for commercial trucks seeking a shortcut to downtown Whitestone, according to Centola.

“It is a huge issue,” Centola said, speaking at the corner of 5th Avenue and the Whitestone Expressway service road. “It has gotten a lot worse over the last 10 years because of all the development.”

The trucks are supposed to follow a designated truck route into Whitestone that involves getting off the Cross Island Parkway and taking either 14th or 20th avenues, he said.

But Centola and other neighbors, like Sylvia Kanellos, who was walking her boxer along 5th Avenue, can testify that truckers do not always follow the rules.

“They are big and bulky,” she said. “When they make turns and you want to walk near the street, they don’t stop.”

Last year a tractor trailer plowed right into a fire hydrant, she said, and then backed up and ruptured its gas tank, she said.

According to Centola, a sea of diesel fuel flooded the area.

The city Department of Transportation confirmed that 5th Avenue is not a truck route and said it looked at the exit in 2010 and determined that a sign was not needed. The department also recently received another request from Centola and will assess whether a sign is now needed, the DOT said.

But Centola said things will only get worse.

In the spring, the city is set to begin a series of renovations on the Whitestone Bridge. Construction on the bridge means possible lane closures.

And that means traffic backup, he said.

When traffic starts to get slow on the Whitestone Bridge, knowledgeable commuters ditch their plans and take 5th Avenue or the Cross Island Parkway all the way across Whitestone to the Throgs Neck Bridge, he said.

As proof, early last week an accident shut down the Whitestone Bridge in both directions and there were backups to get over both crossings. Adding tractor trailers to the mix will make the neighborhood even less safe for children and families, Centola warned

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