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Council Bills

By Oct 23, 2015

Dear Neighbors,

Yesterday, the New York City Council Committee on Transportation hosted a hearing to examine the state of New York City’s commuter van industry. Over the past months calls for commuter van reform have grown, particularly in the wake of crashes, illegal and criminal activity. Three pieces of legislation were heard, two of which I co-sponsored:

Int 860 (Miller, Lancman) provides for the requirement of a study of safety related issues in the commuter van industry and suspending new commuter van licenses pending the completion of such study. Under the bill, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) would conduct a study of safety related issues in the commuter van industry to be submitted to the Council and posted online by March 1, 2016. The study would include information on safety related violations; data on vans, bases, and drivers; information on illegal commuter vans and other information that would prove essential to maintaining proper transportation standards in communities served by the vans, including Eastern Queens, Central and South Brooklyn, and Chinatown.

Int 861 (Miller, Lancman) intends to raise the civil penalty for violating any law or rule related to commuter vans to $1,000 for a first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses within two years. The civil penalty for illegally operating a commuter van ranges from $500 to $1,000 for a first offense, and from $1,000 to $2,500 for subsequent offenses within two years. The bill would increase the civil penalty amounts for illegally operating a commuter van to $3,000 for a first offense and $4,000 for subsequent offenses within two years, thereby leveling the playing field for licensed operators delivering services who follow applicable regulations and laws, including paying licensing fees and insurance.

Int 570 (Williams, Kallos) would repeal the current Taxi and Limousine Commission (“TLC”) requirement that commuter vans operate on a prearrangement basis and maintain a passenger manifest. It would also eliminate the requirement that commuter vans renew their license every 6 years.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 1056 and 1179, which represents NYC Transit and MTA Bus workers in Queens, testified in support of Intros 860 and 861, but opposed to Intro 570, as did Transport Workers Union Local 100, which submitted written testimony. Queens Community Board 12 Transportation Chair Michele Keller and Queens Civic Congress President Harbachan Singh both provided testimony in support of Intros 860 and 861, but expressed reservations on Intro 570.

Written testimony from Queens Community Board 12 Chair Adrienne Adams provided support to all three bills. Former Queens Council Member Archie Spigner urged the committee to strongly consider reforming the commuter van industry and the inequitable service it provides to communities of color throughout the City. The Commuter Van Association expressed support for all bills, with technical amendments to be made. Other panelists included representatives from the Department of Transportation, disability advocates and van drivers, among others. My sincerest appreciation goes out to all who participated in this critical discussion.

Immediately following the hearing, I participated in a press conference on the steps of City Hall calling for the expansion of Gifted and Talented Programs in New York City schools, particularly in communities of color. The issue has been highlighted recently in the Wall Street Journal and DNAInfo. We are calling on the Department of Education to provide additional slots for these programs in our communities so that our children can compete competitively on a national and international scale.

If you would like your child to participate in a district or citywide Gifted and Talented program, and he or she is in Kindergarten through Third Grade, please review thisprogram overview and fill out the application by November 9, 2015.

This morning, my colleagues in city and state government joined me at the Queens Central Library to promote the IDNYC card. This card enables all New York City residents 14 years of age and older to access critical government and banking services regardless of one’s criminal record, national origin or immigration status. Additionally, cardholders receive free or reduced cost entry to dozens of New York City cultural institutions. For more information on card benefits, and how to apply, call 311 or visit the city’s website.

The New York City Department of Finance has recently established the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, an independent entity whose purpose is to assist individuals and businesses with resolving Department of Finance-related complaints. You may access the office in person at 253 Broadway, 6th Floor, or contact them by email at DOFtaxpayeradvocate@finance.nyc.govonline, or by calling 311 or 212-312-1800.

Please remember to continue attending the weekly rallies at Hollis Avenue and 202 Street as we call for responsible development in our communities. The rallies are held each Saturday at 12:30 PM.

Finally, we are all devastated to learn of yet another NYPD officer killed in the line of duty. Officer Randolph Holder, Jr, by all accounts, was a loving and dedicated public servant who unfortunately succumbed to the perils that often accompany his profession. Please keep his loved ones in your thoughts and prayers during this unimaginable period of grieving.

Please note that Officer Holder’s wake and funeral will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday (October 27-28) at the Greater Allen Cathedral on Merrick Blvd. Large crowds, visits from dignitaries, and an overwhelming police presence are all but guaranteed. Commuters should expect significant traffic and public transit delays on these days, and should adjust your schedules accordingly. We will share more information as it becomes available.

Sincerely,

I. Daneek Miller 

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