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Police Crack Down on Trucks After Cyclist's Death, But Summonses Are Rare

By  Leslie Albrecht and Ben Fractenberg | April 22, 2016 1:34pm | Updated on April 25, 2016 8:03am

 Officers from the 78th Precinct stopped a truck on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope near where 33-year-old cyclist James Gregg was killed after a crash with a tractor-trailer.
Officers from the 78th Precinct stopped a truck on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope near where 33-year-old cyclist James Gregg was killed after a crash with a tractor-trailer.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

PARK SLOPE — Local police cracked down on trucks driving illegally on Sixth Avenue on Thursday following a fatal crash between a cyclist and a tractor-trailer, but NYPD data show the enforcement action is a rarity in the 78th Precinct.

Police were spotted on Sixth Avenue pulling over trucks throughout the day near where 33-year-old James Gregg died after colliding with an 18-wheeler near Sterling Place. Sixth Avenue isn't a truck route and trucks are only allowed there with a special permit, officials said.

Trucks can also access local roads to make deliveries, but must turn onto the street from the nearest intersection on a commercial thoroughfare and then take the shortest route back to the commercial road, according to Department of Transportation rules. 

The truck driver was issued five summonses after the collision, an NYPD spokesman said, though police did not immediately know if one of them was for driving on a non-commercial road. 

The crackdown prompted both gratitude and scorn from locals, some of whom said on social media that it was too little, too late.

Sixth Avenue resident Ryan McMillen said he sees "huge trucks" daily on the street.

"I didn’t even know it wasn't legal," McMillen said. "I think it's about time that there was some scrutiny of large trucks, especially on the stretch of Sixth between Union and Flatbush. Drivers get very impatient on that stretch and the street seems narrower there."

McMillen said he avoids that part of Sixth Avenue on his bike during rush hour because trucks "barrel" down the street.

In addition to local officers, a team from the NYPD's Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety unit was in the neighborhood Thursday to issue summonses, a police source said. Those officers are specially trained to spot trucks operating illegally and they were invited to Park Slope by local police, the source said.

The action was planned before Gregg's death in response to a recent increase in truck traffic around the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction site, the source said.

Despite an overall increase in traffic enforcement in the 78th Precinct this year, local police haven't issued any summonses so far in 2016 for truck route violations and issued just five in 2015, according to NYPD data.

By contrast, the number of summonses issued locally for failure to yield to pedestrians — a key component of the city's Vision Zero initiative — has jumped in the past few years.

78th Precinct officials announced at a 78th Precinct Community Council meeting in February that summonses for moving violations in the precinct were up 49 percent for the year — an increase that police said was directly related to a 14 percent drop in collisions and an 11 percent drop in traffic-related injuries.

Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors said Thursday's truck crackdown was welcome, but that only consistent policing and pressure from the community will make a difference in the long run, as would a larger traffic-calming strategy such as congestion pricing.

"Very typically with the NYPD, not just the 78th Precinct, but the NYPD overall, is that they throw resources at a problem after there's a tragedy and you'll have an increased presence, but then things go back to the status quo," McClure said. "I think it’s great, but it needs to become a regular thing."

McClure added that 78th Precinct officials ask the public to tell them about "hotspots" with chronic traffic problems at monthly Community Council meetings.

"I would encourage people who are concerned [about truck traffic] to come out and be regular attendees at the Community Council and raise their voices," McClure said. "There's definitely a squeaky wheel aspect to police enforcement, so if you keep asking for it, they will address it."

A memorial service for Gregg was planned for Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Piro's Funeral Home at 251 DeKalb Ave. in Fort Greene.