2010-08-04 / Front Page

Councilmembers, Groups Call For Halt To Illegal Commuter Vans

Joined by members of COMET and leadership of Community Boards 2, 4  and 5, (l. to r.) City Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz, Elizabeth Crowley and Dan Halloran  last week called for a crackdown on illegal commuter vans.  Joined by members of COMET and leadership of Community Boards 2, 4 and 5, (l. to r.) City Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz, Elizabeth Crowley and Dan Halloran last week called for a crackdown on illegal commuter vans. City Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Karen Koslowitz (D-29, Forest Hills) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) as well as Roe Daraio of COMET (Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together) and the leadership of Community Boards 2, 4 and 5, on July 29 announced a new bill intended to crack down on illegal commuter van activity to ensure proper licensed commuter van service by requiring the TLC to train the NYPD to identify illegal commuter vans versus licensed commuter vans. In addition, Crowley’s new bill will create guidelines summarizing the laws that drivers have to abide by and the kinds of violations they will face if they operate illegally.

“This is first and foremost a public safety issue,” Crowley said at Thursday’s City Council Stated Meeting.  “Illegal and unlicensed commuter vans are operating off the radar of the TLC and the NYPD; they’re not being inspected for safety and they’re not being held accountable. If illegal commuter vans want to continue to operate in this city, they have to abide by the law or else face the consequences. This new bill will strengthen the laws against illegal commuter vans and enforce licensed, regulated, accountable and safer van services.”

 The hundreds of illegal commuter vans who work the same routes but have no permits and no insurance, outnumber the roughly 300 licensed van drivers.  The main issue comes down to a lack of enforcement.  While the NYPD is authorized to penalize illegal commuter vans, traffic officers are not trained to be able to distinguish which are legal commuter vans operating on an authorized route as opposed to illegal commuter vans or licensed drivers operating in an unauthorized zone.

“Requiring the Taxi and Limousine Commission to train the NYPD to identify the difference between legal and illegal commuter vans is a common sense safety measure that I strongly support,” Koslowitz added. “Commuter vans provide a needed service and we in the council need to make sure that they are safe, legal, and reliable.”

Halloran said that the new bill should be given bipartisan support and added, “We encourage competition, but the competition has to be on a level playing field.”

Michael Brasky, representing state Senator Joseph P. Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) released a statement by Addabbo: “I applaud Councilwoman Crowley for introducing this important legislation in the city council. Ensuring the safety and security of those who use licensed commuter vans is of the utmost priority. By giving police the tools they need to differentiate between legal and illegal commuter vans, we can ensure a safe environment for everyone.”

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