By Naeisha Rose
City Councilmen I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) introduced legislation last week that would close a loophole that prevented the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission from regulating large for-hire vehicles and commuter vans.
Intro. 925 would expand the definition of “for-hire vehicle” to include vehicles that seat more than 20 passengers and that would pertain to commuter vans as well, according to a joint press release issued May 9 from the councilmen.
Previously, the law only permitted the TLC to regulate vehicles with up to 20 seats, which allowed some operators to sidestep regulations, especially non-licensed operators who added more capacity to their vehicles, Miller and Williams said.
This circumvention of the law placed law-abiding operators and for-hire vehicle business owners at a disadvantage as they tried to provide a necessary service for communities of color that lacked expansive and reliable public transportation, according to Hector Ricketts, president of the Commuter Van Association of New York. As a result, they lost customers and gained a bad reputation, since non-licensed vehicle operators do not always follow safety rules.
Despite coming to blows with Miller last month over the commuter drop-off site being moved from Parsons Boulevard between Jamaica and Archer avenues to 153rd Street between Jamaica and Archer avenues, Ricketts was supportive of a for-hire vehicle law that protected not just legal operators, but the 120,000 daily customers in southeast Queens who use the service.
“For too long, unscrupulous, unlicensed, uninsured van/bus operators have exploited the TLC’s inability to address vehicles above 20 passengers and have flooded our street, causing deaths, injuries, and loss of revenue for licensed operators,” said Ricketts.
Miller agreed with Ricketts’ sentiments that licensed van operators should not be punished for the actions of non-licensed operators and last month the councilman said he would work with Mayor Bill de Blasio in replacing the commuter van stops from Parsons Boulevard to 153 Street, partly as a response to safeguarding pedestrians.
The Parsons corridor was designated a Vision Zero Priority Area because it ranks in the top 10 percent boroughwide with 70 crashes from 2012 to 2016, including 30 of those accidents in which pedestrians were injured, according to the Department of Transportation.
“Bad actors attempting to circumvent the law with unsafe large vehicles present a danger to the public and to hardworking small business owners operating with legitimacy,” said Miller. “This bill will require everyone to operate within the same regulations and on a level playing field.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose