Rogue Truckers Causing ‘Minor Earthquakes’ on Small Side Streets

Photo by Sam Spokony A commercial delivery truck makes an illegal shortcut, rumbling across W. 15th St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.
Photo by Sam Spokony
A commercial delivery truck makes an illegal shortcut, rumbling across W. 15th St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Chelsea’s 10th Precinct is stepping up its enforcement of laws intended to stop commercial vehicles from taking shortcuts through smaller residential streets, after residents fed up with the rogue truckers spoke out to both the precinct’s commanding officer and Community Board 4 (CB4).

Truck drivers throughout the city often break those laws by sidestepping established truck routes in order to cut ahead of stalled traffic. Over the past few years, they’ve almost always gotten away with it in Chelsea — bypassing the congested West 14th and 34th Street routes, and instead rumbling across narrow side streets.

“This becomes a crisis every five years or so,” said Stanley Bulbach, president of the West 15th Street 100 and 200 Block Association, explaining that the truckers’ illegal shorcuts  generally wane after the periodic bump in enforcement which is now about to begin.

Bulbach said that he voiced concerns on behalf of numerous other West 15th Street residents at the last 10th Precinct Community Council meeting on September 25, citing the “minor earthquakes” that occur whenever truck drivers use his street as a shortcut.

A concrete shield beneath the road on 14th Street protects the L subway train, Bulbach noted, “but our blocks only have this landfill mud under the roadway. So any overweight vehicles really shake the whole street, and it’s enough to start causing small cracks in the buildings. It’s a very sensitive issue for people here, because we’re also worried about potential damage to a high-pressure gas main on the north side of the street, and an asbestos-covered steam pipe on the south side.”

Those concerns were apparently heeded by Captain David Miller, the 10th Precinct’s relatively new commanding officer, who leads the monthly Community Council meetings.

“Since that meeting, Captain Miller has directed our highway safety officers to pay more attention to the issue,” said Detective Mike Petrillo, a community affairs officer at the 10th Precinct.

Petrillo also noted that in addition to West 15th Street, some truck drivers tend to cut corners by using the equally illegal options of West 19th or 22nd Streets.

Residents of all three of those streets recently joined forces to compel CB4 to send a letter to the 10th Precinct regarding this issue, as a measure of further articulating both their complaints and the need for real action. The difference with the CB4 letter, which was approved at the last full board meeting on October 2, is that it’s also addressed to Margaret Forgione — the Manhattan borough commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT).

The letter points out that DOT and the 10th Precinct worked together to address this problem in 2007 and 2008, by installing “No Thru Truck” signs along the smaller streets, in addition to stepping up enforcement. The letter also reports that several of those signs have since been removed during construction projects and never replaced.

Detective Petrillo told Chelsea Now that Captain Miller plans to follow up by fully addressing the truck problem at the next Community Council meeting on October 20, where he will indicate how many commercial drivers have been caught and ticketed as a result of heightened enforcement.