By Julie Shapiro
TRIBECA — Community Board 1 has long been concerned about the traffic problems at the approaches to the Holland Tunnel and the ticketing field day the NYPD apparently enjoys there.
But when DNAinfo reported that a pair of nuns had been ticketed for blocking the box on Watts Street during rush hour gridlock, one board member's concern gave way to outrage.
"They even gave tickets to nuns!" said Marc Ameruso, who shook his head as he held up a printout of DNAinfo's story about the sisters heading home to New Jersey during a CB1 subcommittee meeting last Wednesday on TriBeCa traffic.
Ameruso, 44, a TriBeCa resident and Community Board 1 member, has long criticized traffic cops for writing tickets rather than easing the gridlock around the tunnel. Police officers frequently hide behind buildings waiting for traffic to back up, then they pounce on the cars that are blocking the box, Ameruso and others said.
The officers who write tickets do nothing to clear out the gridlock, so pedestrians trying to cross Watts, Canal and Varick streets are forced to weave through the vehicles in a free-for-all, Ameruso said.
"It’s very, very dangerous," Ameruso said. "The Bloomberg administration cares more about collecting revenue than about the safety of pedestrians."
While NYPD officers direct traffic at some intersections leading to the Holland Tunnel, like Hudson and Canal Streets, at other intersections they just give tickets.
More than half a dozen people crossing Canal Street at Greenwich Street during recent rush hours all gave an identical account of how the police hide out of sight on a stoop and then give out tickets as soon as the light changes.
"I think it's unfair what they do, to not direct traffic and simply give out tickets," said Anthony Manzano, 35, a Brooklyn resident.
Mark Kelly, 48, a TriBeCa resident who was watching the cars pile up on a recent afternoon, agreed.
"They wait for people to get stuck and give tickets, rather than going out and doing their jobs," Kelly said. "It’s been like that forever."
Dennis Healy, 56, who runs an indoor flea market at the corner of Greenwich and Canal Streets, said he had seen the same thing.
"It's a madhouse here every day," Healy said. "The roads stay the same size, but every year there are more and more cars."
Ameruso, who has raised the issue with numerous government agencies, said he heard that officers need a different type of training to direct traffic as opposed to just issue tickets, so it’s possible the same officers cannot do both. In that case, he said, the NYPD should put both types of officers at problem intersections.
The NYPD’s public information office did not respond to requests for comment.
After Ameruso raised the nun issue at the community board meeting, the subcommittee approved a resolution on a similar issue at a different intersection. The resolution called on the Department of Transportation to add new signage and traffic lines on the road at the intersection of Canal and Greenwich Streets, which also feeds the Holland Tunnel and suffers from congestion.