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City Lifts Van Moratorium: Will It Be Dodge City? – QNS.com

City Lifts Van Moratorium: Will It Be Dodge City?

Chanting "we want vans," approximately 150 bus riders jammed a Borough Hall public hearing last weekend demanding improved commuter service in transportation-starved southeast Queens.
The hearing, called by the New York City Dept. of Transportation (DOT), was the first in the borough designed to rule on applications from owners of New York City van lines since the moratorium on new vans ended two months ago.
The new edict on vans allows them to operate within the borough so they can carry passengers from their homes to shopping districts and other points within Queens.
An invasion of new vans concern some public officials who see already traffic-choked Queens streets getting worse.
According to Bernice Spitzer, a spokesperson for City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, there could be hundreds of applications flooding the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).
"City agencies will investigate applicants to assure that licenses are in order, insurance is adequate and then determine if there is a public need."
Spitzer said that hearings, like the one in Borough Hall last weekend, will be conducted by The City Dept. of Transportation (DOT) to seek comments from riders and van operators.
"The City Council can decide to conduct a hearing, or not," she said. "Right now we have none scheduled."
Spitzer said that the Council wants to determine that vans are only authorized in areas that are underserved.
Asked for the Council’s comments on a City Planning Commission study on vans, Spitzer refused to comment saying "that’s not a matter of public record."
The Commission’s study last year called for the introduction of 900 more vans into City neighborhoods.
One official, Steven Goldberg, transportation chairman of Community Board 6 in Forest Hills, confirmed that hundreds of applications are pending before DOT and TLC.
He charged last week at a CB 6 meeting that "it will be like Dodge City when new vans flood the borough."
Goldberg decried the lack of standards to regulate the new influx of vans. As a result, the board voted down a proposal from New York Mexicana Van Lines of Jackson Heights.
Although he wasn’t present in Forest Hills for the CB 6 meeting, Diego Delgado, the owner of Mexicana, did appear at the Borough Hall meeting last weekend.
When he told the audience of Mexicana plans to put a fleet of 30 vans on the streets of Corona, Astoria, Flushing and Maspeth they stood and cheered, chanting "Mexicana, Mexicana."
"The buses take too long," Delgado shouted. "There’s too much inconvenience, people want to go shopping, drop their children at day care or go to work."
The highly-charged meeting was conducted by Harley Brooke-Hitching, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Surface Transit, for DOT.
She said 13 van line operators with fleets ranging from six to 10 vans each, presented her with applications during the meeting.
"TLC will review their licenses and then we will act on them," Hitching said.
One Rosedale construction worker told the DOT hearing that the "bus schedule is no good. Let’s give these privileges to the van company."
He called for the Transit Authority to puts its surplus into the van program.
"What am I chopped liver," he told an exuberant audience.
One Green Bus Lines driver, Tommy Breaux of St. Albans, warned DOT that vans frequently disobey Public Law 115 by driving recklessly and picking up passengers on bus routes.
"My biggest source of concern is the issue of insurance," he said. "I’m worried about passenger safety."
Hector Ricketts, owner of Interboro Lines in Laurelton, who has a fleet of 18 vans, disagreed.
"I want DOT to respect this community and approve these applications. Let the marketplace decide whether or not vans succeed or fail."
He assured the audience his insurance is more than adequate.

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