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Crowley, pols call for better rules on livery vans

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), flanked by Council members Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), announced at Calamus Avenue and 72nd Street in Maspeth Friday the new legislation she has introduced, which calls for crackdowns on illegal commuter vans.

“This is a public safety issue,” Crowley said.

Crowley said she wrote the bill in response to complaints from local residents, who protest the use of both unauthorized and uninsured private companies operating vans in Maspeth, as well as legitimate commuter van companies coming into the community when they are not authorized to operate in the Maspeth area.

“There’s not a need for them to be here,” said Roe Daraio, a lifelong resident of Maspeth and president of the civic group Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together. She said the area is in the vicinity of five bus lines and two train routes.

Crowley said hundreds of commuter vans work in the area without permits and insurance. In response, she introduced a bill in the Council last Thursday requesting the city Taxi and Limousine Commission to conduct training sessions with the city Police Department at a minimum of two times a year about how to recognize unlicensed commuter vans.

Local residents, such as Richard Gundlach, a member of Community Board 2 and COMET, said congestion is part of the impetus behind the bill.

“We get so many vans going down side streets,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Yet Koslowitz and Halloran said that while there is no need for commuter vans in Maspeth, their districts can benefit from commuter sources independent of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“We are far from mass transit,” Koslowitz said. “People get tired of waiting for the buses.”

Yet Koslowitz wanted those who ride as passengers in the vans and get in an accident to be properly compensated.

“We need to make sure that those are authorized vehicles playing by the rules,” Crowley said.

Halloran said two bus lines have been cut in his district and that people need alternatives.

“This is not about stamping out the free market,” Halloran said.

But he also said this bill was a “bipartisan effort” to make sure the commuter van drivers are competent, insured and held accountable if they get in an accident.

“This legislation is aimed primarily at education,” Halloran said.

Crowley said she expects to have a hearing on this bill in the fall.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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