Exposing street scofflaws on the UWS


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Shining a spotlight on illicit commercial traffic that’s long plagued a 48-block residential avenue — and saying “No” to noise


Photos



  • This gigantic 18-wheeler, spotted heading up West End Avenue at 104th Street on April 16, is not supposed to be there.Trucks and buses are barred on the entire length of the largely residential avenue, which runs from 59th Street to 107th Street. Photo: Courtesy of West End Preservation Society




  • This Academy Bus, photographed by a West End Avenue resident as it motored south at 72nd Street on April 15, is in apparent violation of city rules that bar commercial traffic on the entire length of theavenue, from 59th Street to 107th Street. Photo: Courtesy of West End Preservation Society




  • This truck with its headlights on, heading southbound on West End Avenue below 86th Street at about 7:30 a.m. on March 13, appears to be in violation of traffic laws banning commercial vehicles from the length of the residential avenue between 59th Street and 107th Street. Photo: Courtesy of West End Preservation Society




  • This red-and-white Coca-Cola truck, captured by a West End Avenue resident as it cruised northbound up the avenue at 83rd Street on Sunday, March 25, is not supposed to be driving there. Commercial trucks are prohibited along the entire length of the avenue. Photo: Courtesy of West End Preservation Society




  • This flatbed truck, hauling an automobile atop its chassis, was photographed by a resident of West End Avenue at 92nd Street as it headed northbound on the evening of Sunday, March 25. The vehicleisn't supposed to be driving up the largely residential avenue and appears to be violating city rules barring commercial traffic on the stretch. Photo: Courtesy of West End Preservation Society




  • A painted truck bearing the catchphrase, "Oh Snap!" was spotted heading southbound on West End Avenue below 86th Street on the morning of April 3. Traffic laws make it clear that commercial vehicles are not permitted to use the avenue as a thoroughfare. Photo: Courtesy of West End Preservation Society



“The trucks go bumpety, bumpety, bumpety bump — and you hear them all the way up on the 25th floor.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer



BY DOUGLAS FEIDEN

A gargantuan 18-wheeler lumbers north up West End Avenue at 104th Street at 6:41 p.m. on April 16.

Three or four big rigs head south down West End at 86th Street shortly after 7:30 a.m. on March 13.

A red-and-white Coca-Cola truck cruises up the avenue at 83rd Street on Sunday, March 25.

At least three Academy buses travel the avenue lengthwise, in the 70s and 80s, on March 26, April 12 and April 15.

What’s wrong with this picture? Isn’t that how goods are shipped and people transported about Manhattan?

Elsewhere, yes, that’s how business is transacted. But it’s not supposed to be that way on West End Avenue.

The entire 2.4-mile stretch between 59th Street and 107th Street is off-limits to buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles. Period.

And the signage, posted on traffic lights at scores of intersections in both directions, couldn’t be clearer: “PASSENGER CARS ONLY.”

But the ban is regularly flouted by tractor-trailers, commuter buses, charter buses and flatbed trucks hauling autos and backhoes, recent photos show.

Jumbo vehicles routinely use the residential avenue as a thoroughfare, apparently violating city and state rules on commercial truck traffic, according to an investigation by The West Side Spirit backed by dozens of pictures taken by the West End Preservation Society, or WEPS.

“All these gigantic tractor-trailers are driving up and down the avenue, they’re not supposed to be there, people don’t expect to see them, and it can make it problematic when you try to cross the avenue,” said Josette Amato, the group’s executive director.

The Spirit had initially been contacted by a reader, Joseph Christian, an attorney and member of the co-op board at 675 West End Avenue, who said loud and disruptive trucks traveling the avenue at all hours posed noise, safety and public health problems.

Other residents echoed those concerns, saying commercial vehicles — trucks heading north toward the bridge or south to midtown, buses heading south to the Port Authority — often short-cut along the avenue, bypassing legal truck routes like Broadway and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.

To document traffic abuses, the newspaper turned to WEPS, a nonprofit preservation advocate with 850 members that also addresses quality-of-life issues and first campaigned to curb commercial traffic on West End in 2014 and 2015.

On March 12, Amato sent an e-blast to members entitled, “Calling All Cameras to Capture West End Avenue Commercial Traffic.”

WEPS’ methodology: Take lots of pictures, but exclude UPS, FedEx, Con Ed, phone, cable and other service vehicles that are allowed on the avenue only if they enter and exit on the cross streets nearest to their destinations.

The group targeted trucks and buses that appeared to use West End as a thoroughfare, and over five weeks, at street level and from apartments, eight volunteers, all area residents, sent WEPS about 40 photos recording apparent violations.

“Citizen-reporting can pinpoint days and times when commercial traffic is heaviest,” said Richard Robbins, a member of Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee, who snapped an 18-wheeler and made it clear he was only speaking for himself. “That can help the Police Department do selective enforcement with limited resources,”

The exercise has already chalked up a significant community victory: Three Academy buses, 7.5 percent of apparent violators, were photographed motoring up and down the avenue, a fact the Hoboken-based company said it had no knowledge of. It won’t happen again, the firm said.

“Academy Bus was unaware that its motor coaches have been using a portion of West End Avenue that does not permit commercial traffic,” said Ben Martin, a spokesperson for Academy Bus.

“It was never our intention to go against local traffic regulation, and we are presently working with all our drivers operating in the area to ensure they are using the proper thoroughfares for moving about this portion of the city,” Martin added.

The rules are pretty clear. An operator of a commercial vehicle can only travel on West End, and other streets that aren’t designated truck routes, for the “purpose of arriving at his or her destination,” a city Department of Transportation spokesperson said.

“When accessing such a location, the operator must leave a designated truck route at the intersection nearest to the destination, proceed by the most direct route, and then return to the nearest designated truck route using the most direct route,” the DOT official added.

Steep penalties await scofflaws. An “off-truck route” offense costs two points on a driver’s license. Fines start at $250 and can hit $1,000 for repeat offenses.

Neighbors complain about a lack of aggressive enforcement. But NYPD data suggests good-faith efforts to curb abuses.

Two police precincts, the 20th and 24th, cover the area, and in the 20th alone, from 59th to 86th Streets, over 100 moving summonses have been issued to commercial drivers on West End Avenue so far this year, said NYPD public information officer Lt. John Grimpel.

That’s 24 percent of all commercial moving summonses in the precinct, and includes 43 summonses for disobeying signs and 20 for driving off a legal truck route, Grimpel said.

Yet complaints keep pouring in, said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, at least once a week to her office, many more at the police precinct council meetings.

“It’s one of these problems that’s endless, and it’s getting worse and worse because everyone’s shopping on Amazon these days,” Rosenthal added.

At risk is “foot traffic, family traffic and school traffic in the morning,” said WEPS president and civil rights attorney Richard Emery. “It’s even more of a problem in the evening and at night when it’s less clogged, and trucks barrel down the avenue to make as many lights as they can.”

Inveterate West Siders take the commercial intrusions personally: On the evening of March 6, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer found herself tailing a commercial truck from the West 80s all the way to 107th Street.

“I was so outraged, I jumped out at a red light in the middle of traffic to take a picture” of its license plate, she said. “The trucks go bumpety, bumpety, bumpety bump whenever they go over a pothole or sinkhole — and you hear them all the way up on the 25th floor.”

invreporter@strausnews.com









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