Elmhurst community leaders are hoping the NYPD will tow away the perturbing parking problem plaguing the neighborhood.
The Newtown Civic Association is outraged over illegally parked commercial trucks on public streets in Elmhurst – often present overnight or for multiple days.
According to Newtown Civic Association Treasurer Robert Valdes Clausell, companies hoping to avoid hefty parking rates prefer to leave their tractor trailers – as large as 18-wheelers – on public streets, hogging spots meant to be reserved for citizens.
“Elmhurst has experienced, in the last 10 years, a 40 percent increase in population. A lot of those people drive vehicles and as a result, this has further congested an already busy parking situation,” said Valdes Clausell. “So if you include commercial vehicles parking overnight, then you have a big problem. Trucks take up five or six residential parking spaces, and 18-wheelers are so large they could take up eight spaces.”
City law mandates that commercial trucks cannot be parked on residential streets between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., and can only be present in one place for a maximum of three consecutive hours. The fine for violating the law, however, is frequently cheaper than garage fees, and towing the massive trucks is difficult.
“The fine is no more than $300, and that’s assuming they get caught or ticketed. But to park commercial vehicles is a lot more – it could cost upwards of $500 or $600,” Valdes Clausell said. “The fine is a small price to pay compared to overnight commercial parking for an 18-wheeler in New York.”
The stagnant trucks are also hot spots for graffiti, which Valdes Clausell calls “very unsightly” and “an eyesore.”
Although he admits officers of the 110th Precinct have been responsive to the complaints and have ticketed vehicles, Valdes Clausell believes more must be done to discourage illegal parking. Members of the Newtown Civic Association are urging police to increase enforcement by towing away the trucks – a practice utilized by the 104th Precinct, which reportedly ticketed 60 trucks and towed five tractor trailers in Maspeth in December alone.
According to published reports, 145 summonses for a variety of violations – primarily parking – have also been issued to commercial vehicles parked in the Elmhurst area.
“We need tougher enforcement and better resources at the 110 so they can do a better job of stopping this. Ticketing is not enough – you need to tow them away,” Valdes Clausell said. “Just like it was done in Maspeth at the 104, we need a task force. Otherwise it is only getting worse. It is putting a Band-Aid on a mortal wound, which is hemorrhaging more and more every day.”
Thomas McKenzie, president of the Newtown Civic Association, has been less cordial in his words towards police. He has called the 110th Precinct over 50 times, written six emails to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and has now involved Internal Affairs – due to the lack of progress made by the precinct. McKenzie went as far as to name a community affairs officer from the 110 a “doofus dimwit detective.”
“This is very frustrating because the police have ignored us,” said McKenzie. “The cops don’t do anything.”
Others believe the police are not to blame.
Beyond hording parking, Valdes Clausell believes the trucks are severe safety hazards as well.
“The problem is worst around 51st Avenue and Queens Boulevard – that is also one of the most dangerous parts of Queens Boulevard,” he said. “It is not made for truck parking so it creates a pedestrian danger when crossing Queens Boulevard, because the trucks are so tall you can’t see the traffic that is oncoming. You have to venture out into the street.”