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Brooklyn dollar vans want to legitimize their illegal street hail practices

Dollar vans: Give us street hail permits

Brooklyn Daily

Dollar van drivers who zip up and down Flatbush Avenue between Downtown and Mill Basin say they want to horn in on the city’s controversial plan to give livery cabs the right to accept street hails — but claim that the Taxi and Limousine Commission is thwarting their attempts to legitimize their illegal, yet accepted, practice of occassionally picking up customers who flag them down at bus stops.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to sell 6,000 street hail permits that would allow car service drivers to pick up customers at the curb instead of waiting for passengers to call for rides.

But dollar van drivers — who cannot legally pick up street hails — say they aren’t included in the city’s plan, even though they claim Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky promised they would be.

“The chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission is playing with us,” said Leroy Morrison, the manager of Alexis Van Lines, who’s driven a commuter van for 25 years. “Commissioner Yassky needs to wake up and think about these guys who have a family and want to make a decent living!”

Dollar van drivers throughout the borough are outraged that they will not be able to make a bid for a $1,500 permit, according to Morrison.

But even if they were allowed to get one, many dollar van drivers won’t be able to afford the costly fee, advocates say.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t find a way for these small businesses to perform at their optimal capacity,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush), who noted that the city asked dollar van drivers for their assistance during 9-11 and Hurricane Irene.

“We were led to believe that they were going to be grandfathered into any plan. If we can clear a path for these people, we can focus on getting rid of the illegal road vans that are out there.”

Yet Commission representatives say commuter van drivers can join the street hail plan — which has been sidelined as opponents sue the city over the law’s constitutionality — and insisted that the fees requested are a bargain compared to the $1 million yellow cab medallions can cost.

They also noted that the program was completely optional.

“If they choose to make the decision, they can do better with a different business model,” said Commission spokesman Alan Fromberg. “They don’t have to do this — though we expect the permits to be very popular.”

Despite Fromberg’s assurances, dollar van drivers feel they’ve been deceived by the city.

“That’s bulls---,” said Morrison, who claimed that he had several meetings with Yassky about their inclusion in the bill. “Yassky promised they would waive the fees. All we want is to be grandfathered in and our vans will remain two dollars.”

For Caribbean communities in Flatbush, the dollar vans that run up and down the length of Flatbush Avenue are an important part of getting around town.

They were such a necessity that the city recruited dollar vans to pick up pedestrians along terminated bus routes in 2010, but the plan fell apart when no one would use the vans, officials said.

Even without permits, motorists say dollar van drivers continue to pick up passengers at bus stops along Flatbush Avenue — a practice criticized by many in communities like Marine Park and Mill Basin.

“By law, they’re not supposed to be competing along bus routes,” said Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park).

“They also add to congestion and their conduct on the road leaves something to be desired.”

The Taxi and Limousine Commission floated the idea of giving livery cabs the ability to accept street hails last year, but the plan was immediately opposed by yellow cab drivers, who claimed it would diminish the value of their medallions.

The city ultimately got the assembly and the state senate to approve the plan, but opponents took the city to court, claiming that the council should have reviewed the proposal — not the Albany legislature.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission said that livery cab street pick up permits would be welcomed by Southern Brooklynites, who already stick their hands out for unmarked cabs more than any other city residents, according to a Commission study.

More than 65 illegal hails occur every hour at Mermaid and Stillwell avenues in Coney Island — the highest amount in all five boroughs, the study claimed.

Kings Plaza in Mill Basin is also a top-five spot, with about 20 illegal hails per hour.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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Reader Feedback

bruce from brooklyn says:
How about this,let these drivers clean up their acts before they are given anything else. They block up ave U and Flatbush by the Radio Shack every day creating a very dangerous situation. Where are the cops?They not only make illegal stops all over Flatbush but Utica ave as well.They had to be ticketed to stop peeing on my friends block behind Sleepy's on ave U.I have been cut off by them or had to slam on my brakes as they go through stop signs on avenues U,S,T,O and Fillmore ave more times than I can count. Let them act like professionals and then treat them as such.
Aug. 17, 2012, 9:21 am
JAY from PSLOPE says:
These guys are the WORST drivers in a city full or horrible drivers. They speed like crazy and seem to have an "traffic signals, we don't need no stinking traffic signals" lifestyle.
Why in the hell is anyone talking about letting them do more when they should be taking these guys off the street and giving them dozens of traffic tickets?
Aug. 17, 2012, 1:10 pm
Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
This is another example of...

It doesn't matter if you break the law as long as enough people participate in it.

It doesn't matter that this city and the MTA are complaining about budget crunches and deficits.

It doesn't matter these people are siphoning customers along bus routes.

It doesn't matter that these people are not properly insured.

It doesn't matter that consumers who use the bus system in the city need to pay more to compensate for the ones using these Dollar Vans.

What does seem to matter are the special interest groups and be damned with the general hard-working populace that need to commute back and forth to work.
Aug. 17, 2012, 2:30 pm
LEROY MELVIN II from E FLATBUSH says:
Whyt should these law breaking van drivers be legalized? I see vans with out of state plats daily cruising on Flatbush Avenue. There is no way they are insured as vehicles for hire. And the illegal stopping in bus stops, turn only lanes and the middle of the road is the cause of much of the congestion and danger to pedestrians. They should all be arrested and the vans siezed.

Why do the cops ignore the lawlessness on Flatbush Ave?
Aug. 19, 2012, 6:30 pm
Dottie from Vandaveer says:
Before street hails are allowed an end must be put to the hundreds of illegal cars and vans taking hails on our streets. They cause accidents and if passengers are injured I don't think the insurers of those with the Florida, Mass and Penn license plates will cover the injuries since they were not aware that the were insuring Brookly liveries at rural prices..

Think what the City could earn by seizing and auctioning off all vehicles used illegaly in this trade!

Clean up the business and let insured law abiding tax paying drivers work for regulated services.
Aug. 19, 2012, 9:25 pm
PIERRE from FLATBUSH says:
rewarding the law breakin drivers making them legal isn't right. Driving my truck i almost get hit by them all the time when the u turn. Why do I get tickets and they don't?
Aug. 19, 2012, 10:02 pm
a darker shade of blaclk from canarsie says:
I find consolidation in knowing that most of your fair skinned daughters (especially the young ones) and wives love the way we penetrate there souls and dig a hole lesser.......men in a millenia of evolution can never fill
Also wanted to give a shout out to Hannah Montana for making this already simple game of milk and chocolate chip cookie way easier
P.S. your daughter been here for days come get her my boys are all spen andt the best part is they all look like me.
July 15, 6:27 pm

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