“For far too long, illegal commuter vans have been operating throughout New York City,” said Crowley. “They are operating without proper licenses and many are not inspected for safety.”
She estimated that there are approximately 300 legal commuter vans and probably hundreds more are operating under the radar. Standing on the corner of 72nd Street and Calamus Avenue on the Maspeth/Elmhurst border on Friday, she announced the introduction of a bill that calls on the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to train police officers to identify illegal commuter vans.
“This is truly a public safety concern,” said Crowley. “This is a growing business and if it plays by the rules we'll all be better off.”
Dick Gundlach of Woodside pointed out that in addition to going down narrow side streets, commuter vans also blocks driveways and intersections and blow their horns for the passengers to come out of their houses.
“We're not against using this in an intelligent way,” he added, “but this community is well-served by mass transportation. Why isn't the MTA gaining these fares?”
Maspeth resident Tom Poremski is concerned about the safety problems posed by the reckless drivers of illegal commuter vans. He has observed vans swinging U-turns, backing down one-way streets and cutting off pedestrians. Some of the vehicles even bear out-of-state license plates because insurance is cheaper, but it means less compensation for anyone injured by the van's driver.
“There is total disregard for the neighborhood,” said Poremski. “If there's proper regulation, these vans would dry out because it wouldn't be profitable.
Citizens of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (C.O.M.E.T.) President Roe Daraio, who has been leading the fight against the illegal commuter vans, said that as things now stand, van drivers consider a little slap on the wrist as just another cost of doing business.
“You probably pay more for parking at an expired meter than they do for violations,” she said.