Traffic agents preying on drivers stuck in Midtown Tunnel gridlock

One of the main exits of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel in Manhattan is constantly gripped by gridlock during the morning rush, but the traffic agents stationed there aren’t directing cars to ease the congestion.

Instead, they’re cashing in.

Last year, agents handed out more than 10,000 parking summonses at the corner of East 39th Street and Third Avenue — more than at any other intersection in the city, according to statistics compiled by the American Auto Association Northeast.

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Drivers exiting the tunnel onto 39th Street and trying to make it across Third Avenue often can’t see the light as they move into the intersection. If the light it changes before they make it to the other side, they’re stuck blocking the box.

And that’s when agents pounce.

“Drivers get into the intersection, and they can’t tell what’s going on in front of them, and the next thing they know, they’re stuck and getting ticketed,” said Robert Sinclair of AAA.

Local food-cart worker Mamunul Hai, 47, sees it happen regularly. “Every day, [traffic agents] hide in the corner. They [drivers] cannot see them. Then the traffic come … they run out and give tickets,” he said.

A UPS driver, added, “I’ve probably seen hundreds of people get tickets at this intersection. If they’re anywhere even a little bit behind the white line [on the west side], the [agents] come out and scan them.”

Overall, vehicle owners were slapped with 9.14 million tickets by city agents in 2017, up from 8.23 million the previous year. That’s an 11 percent increase.

When a traffic agent hands out a block-the-box ticket, it counts as a parking ticket. If a cop gives out the same ticket, it qualifies as a moving violation.

One Penn Plaza on West 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues is the top location for no-standing tickets, while drivers are most likely to get popped for double-parking along Eighth Avenue right outside of Penn Station.

Meanwhile, drivers who like to block bus stops should avoid Livingston Street near Hoyt Street in downtown Brooklyn, where the most tickets for that infraction are handed out.

Sinclair said he drove around the city last week to see if any of the most ticketed locations had missing or misleading signage. He found that they didn’t.

“You have to read the signs,” he said. “Drivers are committing these misdeeds.”

That doesn’t stop drivers from being furious about the flurry of ticketing.

“Once … I got a ticket on Seventh Avenue. A customer tried to stop me in the crosswalk. We’re not allowed to stand behind the crosswalk,’’ said cabbie James Baawuah, 40. “I stopped, and I picked him up.

“Someone got my medallion number and complained. There was no investigation. Someone complains, and I automatically get a ticket.”

Taxi driver Kenny Basha, 43, griped that traffic agents and cops are “just out to fulfill their quotes.

“Once I was going south on Broadway and 155th [Street], there was a green light and a green arrow,’’ he said. “I entered the intersection and cautiously made a turn. I pass Amsterdam, I pass St. Nicholas. Suddenly I’m hearing sirens.

“The cop goes under oath, says I failed to yield to a pedestrian. There were no pedestrians on that street. … [But] of course, I had to pay it.”

Additional reporting by Amanda Woods

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