Locals fume over illegal truck traffic in Sunset Park

Felicia DeVita, a 28th street resident, says the truck traffic is a daily menace.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Big rig truckers are taking illegal detours through residential side streets in Sunset Park near the Gowanus Expressway, making life miserable for locals and creating traffic hazards along their illicit routes. 

“There is going to be a tragedy this summer,” said Felicia DeVita, a 28th Street resident living between Third and Fourth avenues. “There are a lot of kids on the block in those 14 multi-family homes.” 

Third and Fourth avenues serve truckers as designated north-south corridors along the borough’s western fringe, but big rig operators are only permitted to maneuver down a short list of crosstown connectors, which in Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights include 20th Street, 38th Street, and 39th Street.

DeVita claims the truckers largely ignore those restrictions, and take advantage of spotty enforcement on the part of police to engage in illicit detours that save drivers time at the expense of locals’ quality of life. 

The 28th Street resident says that illegal trucking is particularly lousy on her street, which heads towards the nearby warehouses for Amazon’s Fresh Direct delivery service, along with the Liberty View strip mall, Industry City, and the not too distant Costco. 

“In the mornings I’m seeing them getting stuck trying to maneuver around the city, and then I can’t get down my block,” she said. “In the afternoon I’m finding they all want to wrap up their day — and they’re speeding to make that light.”

A 53-foot trailer on 28th Street.Courtesy Felicia DeVita

But concerns over illegal trucking are widespread throughout Sunset Park, according to a local transportation guru, who said legislators should pass new laws designed to ease the city’s reliance on oversized trucks.

“It is antiquated that New York City is still dealing with tractor-trailers of this size,” said Zachary Jasie, chair of Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee. “Everything in New York City can be delivered in a 14-foot cube truck.” 

Jasie said the community board asked the city to analyze freight traffic throughout the area over the last decade, but that the assurances on the part of transit officials that a study is in the works has so far proven empty, according to Jasie.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said the city will release a citywide truck study in the coming months, but could not provide any information on one specific to Community District 7.

A large truck stuck making a turn down 26th Street.Courtesy Felicia DeVita

Big rig trucks are illegal on all city streets under New York City traffic laws, which states that “the total length of a combination of vehicles, inclusive of load and bumpers, shall not be more than 55 feet.” 

Despite the law, trucks of that size are common sights throughout the borough, and especially around Sunset Park’s industrialized waterfront.

Lax enforcement is partly to blame, with police issuing just 16 tickets to commercial vehicles for driving on residential streets — throughout all Brooklyn — in January. A Police Department spokesperson did not respond to requests for information on trucking enforcement efforts in the neighborhood. 

And as illegal trucking in Sunset Park continues largely unchallenged,  a four-story trucking distribution center is planned to rise up near the mouth of the Gowanus Canal on Third Avenue between 19th and 20th streets.