The Taxi and Limousine Commission is saying that commuter van owners will have a role when the city is able to implement its planned Outer Borough street hailing program.
City Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) hosted a rally Tuesday with van owners outside the Jamaica Center Station on Parsons Boulevard.
Both men and some of the owners said Mayor Bloomberg and TLC Commissioner and Chairman David Yasskey are threatening the livelihoods of van drivers in the city if the proposed rules go into effect.
The Outer Borough street hail plan would allow livery cars to accept street hails and — according to the TLC — allow commuter vans to operate in a greater role in areas that are underserved by yellow medallion taxis. The airports and lower and midtown Manhattan would remain the exclusive domain of yellow cabs.
“Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Yasskey went back on every promise they made to van drivers,” Comrie said.
He, Williams and several owners said the current proposal would not allow van drivers to accept street hails.
But Allan Fromberg, a spokesman for the TLC, said things are not that simple, and that a lawsuit filed by members of the yellow cab industry is preventing the TLC from including anyone in any plan for the outer boroughs right now.
“With the utmost respect for Council members Comrie and Williams, in fact vans will very much be able to participate in the Boro Taxi program,” Fromberg said in a statement from the TLC. “As you may or may not know, we are currently subject to a [temporary restraining order] that prevents our moving ahead with the program’s implementation at this time, and so we are very hopeful for a positive resolution of the lawsuit as quickly as possible.”
Fromberg continued that when there is a resolution, commuter van owners will have “the very same opportunity as eligible livery vehicles to participate.”
Williams pointed out that the van operators are generally small businesses. He and Comrie said they have operated under city licensing, insurance and inspection rules for decades, and have been among the first to answer the call in emergencies ranging from blizzards and transit strikes to 9/11.
Hector Ricketts, president and CEO of Jamaica-based Community Transportation Systems, said right now they are allowed to operate on streets that are not served by bus lines. He wants street hail rights.
Ricketts also said unlicensed operators are a dangerous alternative. He fears that new regulations and fees, some on a per van rather than a per company basis that will not be paid by unregulated operators, could be crippling to legitimate, legal businesses.
He feels betrayed by what he considers the difference between promises made by the TLC and his understanding of the proposed regulations.
“I would give the city an A for enforcement against unlicensed operators and an F for everything else,” he said.