Leaf Blowers, Annoying; Trucks, Hazardous

Trucks in a no-parking zone on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton David E. Rattray

The East Hampton Village Trustees appear willing to listen to ideas about how to lessen leaf-blower noise. However, as the board considers what primarily is an annoyance, it should also think about a safety problem on village streets — massive landscaping trailers parked in the lanes of travel as workers tend to adjacent properties.

It seems as if the number and size of landscaping trucks and trailers have grown with every season. Officials look the other way when they are left on narrow streets, often in no-parking zones, forcing passing vehicles into the oncoming lanes, especially in the estate sections of the village. 

Unlike officially permitted roadwork or tree trimming, for which the law requires workers to be stationed to direct traffic, these mowers and hedge clipping crews disappear from view the moment their trucks stop. The practice is a clear hazard and arguably illegal: New York traffic law prohibits leaving vehicles unattended in state rights of way; village law allows temporary stops for loading and unloading only.

Not all that long ago, a landscape worker lost his legs here when a passing vehicle squeezed him against a trailer he had left parked in a traffic lane. Pedestrians and bicyclists are similarly at risk, as they move around these obstructions. 

Oddly enough, village police are quick to ticket personal vehicles parked in the roadway, but not so commercial vehicles, which present far more of a hazard. The message is: Don’t try this at home, though it’s okay for the folks who mow your lawn.

Left to their own devices and without bother from law enforcement, landscapers have doubled down, using ever-larger equipment and not trying to back into clients’ driveways even when there is adequate space. Of course, their clients might share some of the blame; many have illegally blocked off public portions of the shoulders or grassed margins of the roads, where work vehicles might otherwise pull off safely. The bottom line is that the fact alone that a truck that is too big to park properly does not give its operator the liberty to leave it wherever he or she wants. 

It is fine that the village might want to do something about the noise from leaf blowers, but officials should not ignore the ultimately more serious problem with the trucks that carry them.