By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Residents on peaceful West End Avenue say Fresh Direct trucks are delivering ear-splitting noise to their street along with groceries.
Linda and Joseph Ditrinco say the trucks are ruining their quiet residential block by parking in front of their building as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m. with their refrigeration units roaring.
"This noise is an act of violence," said Joseph Ditrinco. "They are physically in my house rattling my furniture and hurting my ears. If I were to stand underneath my window and hold a boom box and play music at the same volume, I would be arrested."
The couple has been waging a mostly unsuccessful war against Fresh Direct for more than a year. They want the trucks to stay off quiet West End Avenue, which is almost entirely residential, and make their deliveries from bustling Broadway.
They also wonder why Fresh Direct can't use the smaller, less noisy vans that grocers such as Whole Foods use to make their deliveries.
At first the company ignored the Ditrinco's complaints, the couple said, but after City Councilwoman Gale Brewer's office intervened, they heard from Fresh Direct's transportation manager.
The manager told them the company would soon get new, quieter trucks. A year later, that hasn't happened, the Ditrincos said.
In late November, they spoke to the transportation manager again, and he said he would tell his drivers not to park on the Ditrinco's block between West 98th and West 99th streets.
So far nothing's changed, Linda Ditrinco said. But she said moving the trucks one block won't solve the problem anyway.
"That helps me, but that doesn't necessarily help my neighbors," Ditrinco said. "It's a city issue."
Ditrinco said UPS and FedEx trucks don't pack the same sonic punch, neither do school buses. Garbage trucks are loud when they run their compactors, but that's only for a few seconds, she said. The problem with Fresh Direct is that the trucks park and then sit for up to 45 minutes with refrigeration units rumbling, Ditrinco said.
"It's just infuriating when you hear this noise," Ditrinco said. "It's so identifiable. You can hear it over the TV, you can hear it when the windows are closed."
Company spokeswoman Jennifer Marcus said in an e-mail that the noise is created by the truck's refrigeration, "which is necessary to keep all of our food fresh and of the highest quality for our customers."
She said she couldn't answer questions about whether the trucks could be moved off West End Avenue, or whether Fresh Direct could use smaller, quieter vans for deliveries.
But Marcus said in an e-mail that the company takes "legal compliance very seriously and have never been cited for violating local noise laws."
The Ditrincos aren't alone.
Residents complain regularly about Fresh Direct trucks at neighborhood meetings with police on the Upper West Side, said Ian Alterman, the president of the 20th Precinct Community Council, which covers the blocks from West 59th Street to West 86th Street on the west side.
Neighbors grumble about the trucks' noise, and say they sit for hours and take up precious parking spots, particularly along Broadway, Alterman said.
Police can write parking tickets, but that doesn't do much to solve the problem, Alterman said. "(Writing tickets) really has no deterrent effect because the company simply takes the ticket and accepts it as a cost of doing business," Alterman said.
The recent complaints come a year and a half after Fresh Direct was forced to pay a $50,000 penalty for violating state and city laws that prohibit trucks from idling for longer than five minutes.
Complaints from the public spurred an investigation by the state Attorney General's office that uncovered 30 incidents of "illegal idling" by Fresh Direct trucks, according to a statement by the Attorney General's office.
As a result, the company was supposed to install electronic anti-idling devices on all its trucks. Marcus, the company spokeswoman, said she didn't know whether all of the trucks had been outfitted with the devices yet.
But those devices only affect the truck's motor, not its refrigeration unit.
Andrew Albert, chairman of Community Board 7's transportation committee, said residents have complained about Fresh Direct trucks in the past, but usually the complaints are about the trucks parking and "monopolizing entire blocks" for hours at a time, he said.
Albert said the community board will probably invite a representative from Fresh Direct to speak at a meeting and address neighborhood concerns, including noise from refrigeration units.