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Queens Chronicle

City Council targeting illegal "dollar vans"

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Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2015 7:14 pm

The City Council is entertaining a pair of bills that are aimed squarely at operators of illegal “dollar vans” that have become a particular scourge in Southeast Queens.

The Commuter Van Reform Act was introduced Thursday by Councilmen Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Rory Lancman (R-Fresh Meadows).

If adopted, one bill in the package would cause fines for illegally operating a van to skyrocket from the current $500 for a first offense to $3,000; and from $1,000 to $4,000 for second offenses and subsequent offenses within two years.

A second bill would require annual reports from the Taxi and Limousine Commission on the state of the legal and illegal van industries in the city.

In a joint statement issued by his office on Thursday afternoon, Miller said there are only 344 vans and 301 drivers licensed to operate in the city out of 46 bases.

Legal vans are not permitted to pick up fares along city bus routes, and must have special license places and decals.

A visit to the Parsons Boulevard-Archer Avenue bus and subway hub, however, will routinely show vans, usually white, going so far at to park in bus stops in an effort to pick up passengers.

Rogue in the past year alone have been involved in high-speed chases, accidents involving injuries and shootings, according to Miller’s office.

The councilman alluded indirectly to Wednesday’s averted showdown between Mayor de Blasio and the app-oriented Uber car service.

“During a period where we are rightfully concerned with an oversaturation of vehicles and its impact on the environment and public safety, the wild West commuter van industry has gone without oversight for too long,” Miller said. “The industry has been omitted from the conversations despite often being unsafe, unregulated and inaccessible for many New Yorkers.”

Miller said the legal commuter van industry is on board, having given input on the bills, along with community boards, government agencies and organized labor.

Welcome to the discussion.