Cops and residents tackle illegal truck traffic on 56th Street

January 23, 2014 Heather Chin
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“No Trucks Except For Local Deliveries.”

The two signs are located on either side of 56th Street and Fourth Avenue, facing oncoming traffic coming from Second Avenue. They are hard to miss, and even include a picture of a truck within a Ghostbusters-like circle with a line through it, but that hasn’t stopped a steady stream of truck drivers from driving down the residential stretch in Sunset Park, honking their horns in traffic and often blocking the path for ambulances heading to and from Lutheran Medical Center’s emergency room.

This is nothing new, but it’s been especial bad said Isabelle Verdini, a long-time resident of 56th Street, “since they put the sign up [over a year ago].

“The sign fell off during Hurricane Sandy and [transportation workers] finally got it back up in spring of 2013, plus they added another one, but no one paid attention to them,” she noted. “For some reason, tractor trailers love [the block].”

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During the day and especially on the weekends, said Verdini, “when a person is double-parked, the trucks keep honking to make their delivery. It’s been a terrible noise and a huge traffic jam.”

Verdini and fellow neighbor Sheila Pisciotta brought up the problem at the October and November meetings of the 72nd Precinct Community Council, telling officers about the problem, including one instance when “a young cop said he didn’t know about the sign and so he didn’t ticket the driver.”

At the November meeting, Captain James Grant, commanding officer at the 72nd Precinct, told residents that he would make sure to remind/train officers regarding the traffic signs and would have them be on the alert to issue tickets.

“Word will get out. Truckers talk,” said Verdini. “Hopefully it’ll make a difference.”

By the time the January meeting rolled around two months later, Grant had some good news.

“We issued 18 tickets to trucks,” he announced, adding that going forward, he’ll continue having officers monitor the area “on an ongoing basis because a lot of times, people are repeat offenders.”

The ticketing has begun to have a positive effect, said Pisciotta, 53, who has lived on the street for her entire life. “I noticed it was a bit quieter. My house used to rattle and I would hear honking, so now it’s not as bad,” she said.

Describing how the problem progressed over the years, Pisciotta explained that “it got worse as more and more stores arrived [on the avenues] and drivers realized that on a lot of streets, you can’t go up.”

“There is a slight diminishment. The precinct said they’d take care of it and they finally got to do it, so hopefully they’ll keep up with it,” said Verdini. “Eighteen tickets is good, but it’s only a start. Ambulances and fire trucks really need to get through.”

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