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Quiet Skillman Avenue Besieged by Truck Traffic, Residents Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | June 14, 2012 11:42am
Truck traffic has significantly picked up on Skillman Avenue, residents say
Truck traffic has significantly picked up on Skillman Avenue, residents say
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

SUNNYSIDE — Skillman Avenue may be squeezed between the bustling routes of Queens Boulevard and Northern Boulevard, yet until recently it was able to avoid excessive traffic.

But residents say a sudden torrent of trucks in recent months is turning the once-quiet street into a highway with excessive noise, choking fumes and speeding vehicles, especially in the morning.

Even though Skillman is not a truck route, traffic has significantly picked up in recent months, increasing noise and pollution levels in the area, residents say.

Martine Aerts-Niddam, who has lived on Skillman Avenue between 45th and 46th avenues for 22 years, says she noticed the problem about seven months ago. "Between 6 and 11 a.m., there are humongous trucks running down Skillman Avenue at an incredible speed," she said. "They just zoom by."

Aerts-Niddam, a writer who often works from home, says it’s a major distraction. "It used to be a quiet neighborhood," she added. "These trucks don’t belong here."

DOT officials confirmed that no portion of Skillman Avenue, which runs from Long Island City to Woodside, is a designated truck route for through traffic.

On roads that are not truck routes, trucks are allowed only to make deliveries. After that they should return to a truck route, officials said.

It’s not clear why truck traffic has recently increased in the area. Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, says one possible reason may be the Maspeth Truck Bypass, which went into effect last October. 

The bypass rerouted heavy truck traffic away from both residential streets and retail areas of nearby Maspeth, changing the way trucks travel to and from the Long Island Expressway.

Conley also believes that many "trucks use Skillman Avenue as a shortcut, when other streets, like Queens Boulevard, are backed up." Moreover, he points out, there is a big shopping center along 48th Street just off Northern Boulevard, with numerous stores, including Home Depot and Super Stop & Shop, where trucks may be heading.

Residents say that trucks driving through the area are destroying their quality of life.

Jessica Alvarado, 28, a mom with two toddlers, says she is very worried about the air quality. "No one wants to breathe this nasty truck exhaust," she said.

The noise has increased so much that Olivia Lanfernini, 76, who lives on 49th Street, half a block from Skillman Avenue, says she can now clearly hear the traffic in the morning. "It definitely got worse," said Lanfernini, who has lived in the area for 32 years.

And Aerts-Niddam, who owns a two-family house, worries that the truck traffic may bring property values down. "No one wants to live in the area with a lot of trucks," she said.

Conley said he would like to see more police enforcement along Skillman Avenue. "Then truckers will get the message. We also want to make sure that there is better signage," he said.

The NYPD does monitor the area, police sources said. "If a truck is observed by a police officer and it’s not on a truck route, it’s stopped and it’s investigated," a police source said. "If it turns out he is not doing a local delivery, he is issued a summons."

It was not immediately clear how many summonses have been issued.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the area, said that while "some of these trucks may be doing local deliveries, others really shouldn’t be there."

"So we’re working with the police department and the Department of Transportation to increase enforcement to get these trucks off the road," Van Bramer said.