Tag Archives: TLC

Ridgewood woman goes on TV to change look


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of TLC

When Ridgewood resident Sarah Feldman decided to take the brave step of changing up her look to go with her growing businesses and roles in the community, she didn’t ask for advice from friends and family or stop by a local clothing store — she turned to national TV.

But the show, TLC’s “Love, Lust or Run,” had a larger impact on the 27-year-old and some of its viewers than she ever imagined.

“I was worried. I didn’t know what they would do,” Feldman said.

“I thought they would put me in a boring business suit,” she added.

Feldman had only seen the makeover show, hosted by Stacy London, formerly of the same network’s “What Not to Wear,” once before applying, and thought it would be “funny” to send her footage, but didn’t think she would be “weird enough.”

But her look made the cut, and it made quite the impression on London. When Feldman stepped into the studio with her pink hair and cat coat, London reacted by saying, “I’m confused” and “You look like a sherpa.”

Another of Feldman’s looks, which she described on the June 19 episode as “granny chic meets acid princess raver goth child from the ‘60s,” showed her sporting butterfly wings.

But  the busy entrepreneur knew it was time to stop hiding in her clothes, something she felt like she was stuck doing from her adolescence.

As a new member of Community Board 5, she wanted a more appropriate look for her new role, but to also maintain her artistic, creative side, said Feldman, who also runs Ridgewood Social and Ridgewood Market.

The premise of the show, beyond a basic makeover, is to ask people on the street to rate the person’s look and say whether it makes them feel “love,” “lust” or makes them want to “run.”

Though the comments were unflattering, including that she belonged in an “artisan enclave,” and that her look wasn’t appropriate for business, Feldman said she “felt relief” when she heard the comments because she had been hiding for a long time. She was actually more apprehensive about the makeover.

Sarah in an after look.

Feldman trying on clothes during the show.

Feldman not only ditched the pink hair, turning into a brunette (she had predicted that the hair stylist would make her blonde), but was also shown by London how to pick out better fitting clothes.

“I look so smart,” Feldman said during the reveal.

Not only did the people on the street now love what she was wearing, but her fiance Neil surprised Feldman by appearing via video to tell her that he loved her new look and to say that she was “still the beautiful girl I fell in love with.”

London also surprised Feldman with a bag — made from her cat coat.

“Everything she was doing beforehand was really about creating a distraction and now she is going to see herself as an asset,” London said.

Stacy London with Sarah in her after look.

Stacy London with Feldman in her after look.

Since the show, Feldman said she has kept the brown hair and gotten rid of her old clothes.

“I didn’t really think shows like that had an impact,” she said.

Feldman’s appearance also made an impression on some of those watching. She has received letters from girls around the country saying that they can relate to her experience and honesty, and that they “don’t feel alone anymore.” Some even told her they cried during the episode and lauded Feldman’s bravery for going on the show.

“It wasn’t my intention,” she said, “but it was a definite positive.”

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Cabbie hangs on as carjacker steals ride in Ridgewood


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Police continue to search for a carjacker who allegedly led a livery cab driver on a wild ride through Ridgewood early Saturday morning.

The attack occurred at about 4:30 a.m. Saturday in front of a location on Myrtle Avenue near Wyckoff Avenue in Ridgewood.

Earlier, according to police, the 36-year-old driver, while operating a white Toyota Camry with TLC plates, picked up the suspect — described as a bald-headed Hispanic man believed to be 34 years old, 6 feet 1 inches tall and 160 pounds — at the corner of Broadway and Marcy Avenue in Williamsburg.

The passenger then told the suspect to drive to the Ridgewood location.

Upon pulling over in Ridgewood at about 4:30 a.m., authorities said, the passenger choked the driver and forced him out of the car. The driver allegedly hopped onto the hood of the car as the suspect got behind the wheel and began to drive away.

According to police, the victim hung onto the hood while the crook drove eastbound on Myrtle Avenue for several blocks. After he got off the hood at the corner of Putnam and Myrtle avenues, the suspect sped away inside the cab.

Officers from the 104th Precinct responded to the scene. The victim was not injured.

Police said the victim’s wallet, along with two iPhones and more than $1,000 in cash, were taken along with the vehicle.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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De Blasio signs package of Vision Zero bills at fatal Queens accident site


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Diana Robinson/Mayoral Photography Office

A Woodside intersection, where a fatal accident involving an 8-year-old student occurred last December, became the site where a package of traffic safety bills were signed in hopes of a brighter and safer future.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was joined by other elected and city officials as well as family members of victims of traffic fatalities, signed 11 bills supporting the city’s Vision Zero initiative on Monday at P.S. 152, less than a block from where third-grader Noshat Nahian was fatally struck by a tractor trailer in December.

“We’ve been taking aggressive action from that day forward, because we understand these collisions injure almost 4,000 New Yorkers a year, and kill over 250 New Yorkers in recent years,” de Blasio said. “And that’s been the minimum. And that’s been an unacceptable reality each year.”

Before signing the bills on June 23, de Blasio paid a visit to the completed Department of Transportation (DOT) project at Northern Boulevard and 61st Street, which includes two pedestrian islands, enhanced crosswalks and parking regulations.

Later this year the busy roadway, between 62nd and 102nd streets, will become one of the first Arterial Slow Zones, lowering the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.

The package of bills includes requiring the DOT to study left turns and come up with a report every five years; to respond to and address major traffic signal issues within 24 hours; to produce a report on work zone safety guidelines on bridges; to install seven Neighborhood Slow Zones this year and in 2015; and to annually lower speeds to 15 to 20 mph near schools. The bills also require the agency to study major roadways and produce a report every five years.

The bills also refer to “Cooper’s Law,” named after 9-year-old Cooper Stock who was fatally struck in Manhattan, which requires the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) to suspend drivers involved in a crash where a person is critically injured or killed and where a driver receives a summons for any traffic-related violation. The package also included the establishment of penalties for vehicles that fail to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists, and requiring the TLC to review crashes with critical injuries or death.

“The passage of today’s bills will bring us closer to making Vision Zero a reality in every neighborhood in the City of New York,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “These laws will also will help reduce reckless driving and speeding through our local neighborhoods. Traffic safety is an issue our city takes seriously. Through this legislation, we will make our streets safer for all pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike.”

The bills also address prohibiting stunt behaviors on motorcycles.

“We have promised the people of this city that we will use every tool we have to make streets safer,” de Blasio said. “Today is another step on our path to fulfilling that promise, and sparing more families the pain of losing a son, a daughter or a parent in a senseless tragedy.”

 

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Bayside couple sues TLC after husband accused of being illegal cabbie


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A Bayside couple is suing the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) for $3 million, claiming that agents racially profiled them after they wrongfully busted the husband for being an illegal cab driver, according to published reports.

Dan Keys, 66, was driving his wife, Symone Palermo, 53, to her job at Bob’s Discount Furniture store in Flushing in May 2013 when the incident occurred, reports said.

TLC investigators reportedly pulled Keys over after he dropped off his wife in their Lincoln Town Car and accused of him of operating an illegal taxi. Palermo was sitting in the back of the vehicle because the front passenger seat was wet.

Keys tried to explain that the passenger was his wife, and when Palermo arrived to try to help, they were both issued summonses because the car is registered in her name, according to published reports. They also seized the vehicle.

The suit, filed in Queens Supreme Court, claims that Keys was only stopped because investigators “observed an African-American male driving what they thought to be a white female,” the New York Daily News reported.

The suit is also claiming that the city and TLC violates civil rights because they “instruct its employees to target and single out vehicles operated by minorities with white passengers, the Daily News said.

A judge dismissed the summonses, but the couple did not get their car back for eight days, when they won their case, according published reports.

The TLC declined to comment pending litigation, reports said.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Rain likely. High 66. Winds SSE at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a half an inch. Friday night: Cloudy with periods of rain. Areas of fog developing late. Low around 55F. SSW winds at 15 to 25 mph, decreasing to 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.

EVENT OF THE DAY: To Bird & Dizzy with Love

Flushing Town Hall presents “To Bird & Dizzy with Love,” a musical homage to Charlie “Bird” Parker and John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, the two men most responsible for creating the Be-Bop vernacular and changing the way jazz musicians approached improvisation. Pre-show discussion with Jimmy Heath, music director and conductor of the Queens Jazz Orchestra, is Friday at 7:30 p.m.; the show starts at 8 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Next wave of popular green cabs hits TLC snag

The new chair of the Taxi and Limousine Commission on Thursday said she couldn’t guarantee that the next batch of 6,000 green taxi permits would be issued at any point in 2014, as previously planned. Read more: New York Post

Fast food workers around the world strike for higher wages

Fast food workers around the world walked out on their jobs Thursday to protest their low wages. Read more: am New York

Some subway emergency door alarms turned off by MTA

The MTA made its noisy subway a bit quieter over the last year by eliminating hundreds of emergency door alarms. Read more: am New York

Sophia, Jacob top names for New York newborns

Sophia stayed at No. 1 and Jacob jumped Michael for the top spot as the most popular baby names in New York State last year. Read more: NBC New York

New round of GM recalls affects 2.7 million vehicles

General Motors announced five more recalls Thursday, affecting 2.7 million of its cars. Read more: CBS New York

 

Astoria resident victim of alleged livery cab hit-and-run


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Rich Feloni

Even playing it safe couldn’t keep Rich Feloni from becoming another hit-and-run victim.

Feloni was walking down Ditmars Boulevard toward the Q69 bus stop on his way to work Tuesday at about 8:50 a.m. when he was allegedly struck by a black livery cab on the corner of 45th Street.

The Astoria resident said that although he had the right of way, he still leaned forward to check on any incoming traffic. The cab, which Feloni believes was speeding and driving close to the parked cars on the street, then struck him as he was looking to the right and threw him off his feet.

“Even if I had the right of way I still leaned forward as precautionary measure. Next thing I know I’m getting whipped to my left and I see this car just making contact with me,” Feloni said. “It was just very reckless driving. This guy was going much faster than any car is driving in the morning.”

While on the floor, Feloni said the traffic light remained red and he noticed the cab slowed down. However, once he stood up, with help from nearby concerned pedestrians, the cab allegedly sped away from the scene.

A man who helped Feloni to his feet was able to jot down four numbers of the driver’s license plate and shared it with police.

Feloni was then taken to Mount Sinai Queens with a fractured ankle and abrasions on his face.

“I tried to be more precautionary, with all these crazy stories you hear,” Feloni said. “I’m glad I even paused.”

Police information was pending as of Wednesday afternoon.

Although The Courier cannot confirm that the cab driver was speeding when Feloni was allegedly struck, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) announced it is currently exploring anti-speeding technology as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero’s goal of zero traffic fatalities.

The TLC is looking at speed governors, also known as mandatory or intervention systems, and other advisory systems that alert drivers when they are going over the speed limit, driving while fatigued or driving recklessly.

A Vision Zero Town Hall meeting has also been scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, in Long Island City at LaGuardia Community College, 31-10 Thomson Ave.

 

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TLC lieutenant struck, dragged by livery driver


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A routine inspection stop turned dangerous for a Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) lieutenant when the livery driver allegedly sped off, injuring the woman.

The lieutenant and a TLC inspector started following the man’s town car Sunday afternoon when they noticed it had livery cab plates, but lacked the decals needed to legally operate, a TLC spokesman said.

After seeing a passenger exit the vehicle, the two TLC officials approached the driver near Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard about 1:30 p.m., according to the spokesman.

Shortly after the officials began speaking with the driver, he allegedly drove off, striking two vehicles he was parked in between and the lieutenant. The town car then dragged the woman for several feet.

She was taken to Jamaica Hospital where she received several stitches after hitting her head on the ground and was later released, the spokesman said.

The livery cab driver fled the scene and police are still investigating, according to officials.

 

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Green cabs could be coming to south Queens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of TLC

Green cabs could now be driving down south in the borough.

A representative from the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) will be making a stop at the next Community Board (CB) 10 meeting on Thursday, December 5 to explain the new Boro Taxi procedures, rules, and the program’s presence in the region moving forward.

Betty Braton, CB 10 chair, said the outer-borough cabs coming to the community could either be a benefit or a disadvantage depending on “how it rolls out.”

“I would believe on the positive side, it provides a safer way in the outer boroughs for people to do street hails,” she said. “On the downside, we already have an existing problem with livery cabs parking. I would think it would become problematic if the green cabs decide to take up parking spaces or just cruise constantly in the transit hubs.”

Boro Taxis, similar to livery cabs, are affiliated with a base and may take dispatch, flat-fare calls. However, similar to city yellow cabs, they can also make metered, hailed pick-ups.

Currently licensed livery bases apply for an opportunity to affiliate the street-hail liveries, which is then processed and approved by the TLC. Two sites in South Ozone Park already got the green light for green cabs, according to the TLC.

Resident Jesus Garay made a request on the Boro Taxis’ website for a base at the cross section of Woodhaven Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard, so cabs could serve Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.

 

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LIC, Astoria best bet for hailing green cabs


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Taxi & Limousine Commission

Queens taxi riders have the best shot at hailing a green cab in Long Island City and Astoria.

Nearly 900 new apple green cabs roam the northwestern edge of the borough, according to data from the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC).

City officials said more than 1,000 borough taxis have hit the streets since the first fleet of its kind rolled out in early August.

“Borough taxis have quickly proven themselves to be immensely popular, with almost 300,000 rides having already taken place,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the plan in 2011. “The new taxis have been a hit with both riders and drivers, and they will become an increasingly common sight in communities that previously lacked taxi service.”

LIC and Astoria, near the western part of the Ravenswood Houses, have 223 wheelchair-accessible green cabs and 675 standard ones, TLC data shows.

The area also includes the strip of land bordering the East River, the Queensbridge Houses and a portion of the neighborhood north of Queens Plaza and west of Northern Boulevard.

“They are all over the place in Long Island City and Astoria,” said passenger David Gutierrez.

“They’ve just become part of the community.”

The 31-year-old LIC resident, who cruises to Astoria in a green cab for business almost every day, said he has no trouble spotting one.

“I like the green color,” he said. “You definitely can’t miss them.”

Neighborhoods with the lowest number of green cabs include Flushing, Far Rockaway, Forest Hills and Middle Village, according to TLC data. There is at least one street hail livery base in each of those regions but no licensed green cabs listed.

Heather Bartone of Astoria said Steinway Street is a “green cab central,” but she is often left stranded in Flushing, where she works.

“I rarely see any in Flushing, so instead I have to take a regular taxi back home,” said Bartone, 41.

City officials announced Tuesday a new website called www.borotaxis.org, created to let New Yorkers suggest new green cab locations.

The new taxis are licensed to pick up street hails anywhere in the city, except in certain parts of Manhattan and at airports.

They charge the same fare as yellow cabs and must also have taximeters, a TLC permit number, credit card machines, roof lights and rate information printed on its front driver and passenger doors.

The TLC said it has already finished selling its first 6,000 borough taxi licenses allotted this year.

However, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has been a staunch opponent of the new taxi plan, going so far as to say he would fire Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky, according to reports.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the commission has not yet cracked down on pockets of illegal hail activity as promised.

“It seems the green cabs are just sitting outside train stops with livery cabs that are still illegally picking up passengers,” he said. “That wasn’t the deal.”

A TLC spokesperson said the commission would soon beef up enforcement after more than doubling its field strength over the past two years.

 

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NYPD, TLC crack down on illegal vans


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Christabelle Tumola

The joy ride is coming to an end for illegal dollar vans cruising the streets of southeast Queens.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has teamed up with the 103rd Precinct to continue a crackdown, embarking on monthly checks of the area and stopping illegal vans they find running rampant through the streets.

“They take money out of the city’s pockets,” said NYPD Lieutenant Jason Margolis of the drivers, found mostly in Jamaica.

Patrols for the illegal vehicles are typically conducted between Archer Avenue, Sutphin Boulevard, Liberty Avenue and Merrick Boulevard. More times than not, the drivers and their vans are uninsured, in which case the NYPD will write the drivers a summons and impound the van.

Lately, sweeping the borough clean of the illegal vans has proven much more effective than in the past. In 2011, only 31 vans were identified and taken, and this year the number so far totals 1,593 vans.

“We’re doing some huge numbers in terms of seizure,” said TLC Commissioner Jeff Hunt. “We want to make sure that when we go out, we are effective. We don’t want to bring in just one or two.”

Margolis also said that the drivers tend to have a criminal background.

“We’ve found guys with weapons, under the influence while driving, with suspended licenses,” he said. “We’ve had guys fight with us, we’ve had guys run from us. It’s not good for public safety.”

Once a month, an officer from the 103rd Precinct will go on patrol with two members of the TLC, on the hunt for illegal vans. Margolis said the trick is to look at the license plate — if the van’s plates don’t say “LIVERY,” they shouldn’t be providing a taxi service.

The NYPD has received complaints from residents about the danger that the vans pose, but a majority of these come from registered, insured TLC drivers.

“These guys are taking their business away from them,” said Margolis.

The lieutenant also said that the illegal vans tend to come out more so at night.

Allan Fromberg, press director for the TLC, said that the organization is focusing on connecting with community leaders to let them know about the work they and the NYPD are doing, and in turn to also listen to what the community is saying. They have adopted a “zero tolerance” position for the illegal drivers’ violations.

“If we keep doing checks, keep focused on it, we’ll be able to reduce it as much as possible,” said Margolis.

Taxi fare hike starts today


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

The first taxi fare increase in six years goes into effect today.

In July, the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) approved the hike that raises cab rides an average of 17 percent.

Though the initial $2.50 charge for the first 1/5 mile has not changed, the rate for each additional 1/5 mile has gone up from 40 to 50 cents.

Rides between JFK and Manhattan have also increased, from $45 to $52. The surcharge on top of the metered fare and tolls for trips to Newark Airport has gone from $15.00 to $17.50.

Southeast Queens plagued by illegal vans


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

BY PAUL BUFANO
editorial@queenscourier.com

Esther Robinson passed up several unlicensed vans while she waited at the corner of Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue in the blistering heat. Although she was anxious to get home, she would only ride in a licensed van.

“There’s no doubt that some people would be afraid to ride in an unlicensed van,” said Robinson. “It depends on the driver, but I’ve been in many vans that weren’t following all the rules.”

Unlicensed commuter vans have been operating illegally in southeast Queens for about two decades, say officials. While some travelers appreciate the service they provide, there are many who do not. Critics attack the vans on two fronts: they say they are recklessly driven, and that they poach city revenue.

“Most commuters don’t even know to check to see if the van has a DOT (Department of Transportation) sticker or if the driver has a proper license,” said David Clarke, a DOT licensed driver. “They only find out it’s unlicensed when the van is pulled over by the police for running a red light or speeding.”

Most vans charge the same fee of $2, but the unlicensed vans tend to be quicker because they are usually speeding, he said.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056 leads the opposition against the vans. ATU 1056 president and business agent I. Daneek Miller recently called for city and state agencies to address the problem.

“Our main goal is to deal with the dangerous and illegal manner that both licensed and unlicensed vans operate along MTA bus routes,” said Miller. “Forget about whether the vans are assisting some commuters, as they speed along bus routes they endanger citizens and result in us losing thousands of dollars a day. They are simply not helping the city and it’s just not fair.”

Councilmember Leroy Comrie wants to see unlicensed van drivers receive the tools to legitimize their business. The vans will be much easier to regulate once they are all legalized, he said.

“These vans have been institutionalized in the area over many years, and if they are going to create opportunities they should be helped,” said Comrie. “If we are able to eliminate the illegal vans there would be less competition and we would then have a better chance to enforce safe driving.”

Akeen Henry is an unlicensed van driver. He said he has no choice but to drive without a license because the current system makes getting one too difficult.

“I have a family to support and I need to make money, but these guys make it unfair to do it the right way,” he said. “They only say I’m breaking laws because they don’t want to share any of the money to be made.”

Residents have also raised safety concerns about the unlicensed vans, said Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12.

“Our interest is the safety of the people boarding and riding these vans,” said Reddick. “Many times people are only interested in getting to where they have to go in the shortest amount of time possible, rather than whether it’s safe or not.”

Enforcement has to be stricter to keep the streets safe, said Reddick. The MTA, NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) have to work together in order to solve this problem, she continued.

“The NYPD predominantly enforces traffic laws that include moving and parking violations,” said officer Mark Costa of the 103rd Precinct. “The NYPD can enforce illegal vans, but it isn’t prioritized over issues involving crime and violence. Organizations like the TLC go after the issue in full force and have the manpower to do so.”

The TLC has stepped up its efforts by working with the NYPD to deal with the illegally operating vans in Queens, said Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the TLC.

“We have taken 300 unlicensed vans off the street this calendar year to date, so I would say we are dealing with the issue quite effectively,” said Fromberg. “We don’t have the manpower to properly address the issue alone, which is why we have been working with the NYPD. Riding these vans is a matter of convenience, but people can take some simple steps like checking for TLC plates to recognize if the van is properly licensed or not.”

 

Ambulette checks result in summonses, seizures


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

The New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) and New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) recently conducted a surprise check of ambulette service providers in Queens and Brooklyn.

During two investigations in the last month, the OMIG and TLC issued more than 15 summonses. Violations included unlicensed drivers and vehicles, insufficient paperwork and lack of proper decals on display. All three of the unlicensed vehicles were seized.

Also known as paratransit vehicles, ambulettes are specially designed vans that transport the disabled, elderly and patients in non-emergency situations. They need to be equipped with a wheelchair lift, and drivers must be trained to help passengers in and out of the vehicle.

An increase in ambulette billings in New York City led to the inspections, said OMIG spokesperson Wanda Fischer. Though this data didn’t specifically indicate that drivers and vehicles were operating unlicensed, it prompted a check for any kind of possible abuse or fraud.

Last month, the OMIG and TLC conducted an inspection along Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills and at Elmhurst Hospital. On that day, they issued eight summonses for unlicensed drivers and an unlicensed van. The vehicles were from a variety of ambulette companies, but the OMIG would not say which companies were included in the review.

The Queens violations prompted another inspection by the OMIG and TLC in July, of the areas on and around Coney Island Avenue and Coney Island Hospital. Both the Queens and Brooklyn locations were chosen because of their proximity to hospitals, but otherwise were selected at random.

“[These checks] will hopefully serve as a warning,” said Fischer. “We are trying to get providers to improve their own internal controls and find their own mistakes and stop them before they happen.”

Canute Smith, owner of Leon’s Ambulette, located in Jamaica, said that many ambulette violations are minor and simple to fix. For example, drivers who are licensed to operate seven-passenger ambulettes, may not update their licenses when they start driving 15-passenger vehicles.

Smith, who said his company’s ambulettes and drivers are properly licensed, added that ambulette compliance checks are nothing new, but wishes that the OMIG and TLC would give notice beforehand.

The OMIG and TLC can foresee doing more reviews together in the future, said Fischer. But she cannot say when or where because the checks wouldn’t be as effective if they weren’t a surprise.

Taxi fares to increase this fall


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

Passengers will be dishing out more green in yellow taxis come September.

The Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) today approved rate hikes in city cabs by a 6-2 vote with one abstention.

It is the first increase in six years.

A ride will cost passengers approximately 17 percent more after the increase, the TLC estimates.

Initial fares of $2.50 will remain the same, but each click of the meter will jump from 40 cent to 50 cents.

The fixed price between JFK Airport and Manhattan will also climb $7 to $52.

The extra cash will go to the drivers to cover health care and disability.

 

New $1 Flushing buses may be illegal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A battle is brewing in downtown Flushing between recently emerged $1 buses that are taking away customers from a cutthroat competitor, and authorities who say the new set of wheels could be operating illegally.

Hordes of passengers lined up single file on 41st Avenue and Main Street for a $1 trip to Chinatown in Manhattan on Monday morning, July 9. Some said the new “big bus” was a more convenient, cheaper and roomier ride than an already established and authorized commuter van service across the corner.

“Before, in the small bus, the service was very bad. They don’t let us eat and drink, and they drove very fast,” said Michelle Dhu, 26. “It wasn’t safe.”

The smaller commuter buses are operated under Flushing Commute Van Management Corp. and can only hold up to 19 passengers. It is licensed by the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) to shuttle people to Chinatown, Brooklyn and Elmhurst.

Fees for the commuter bus were as high as $2.75, Dhu said, before the company dropped the price to $1 to keep up with its newest rival.

Still, Dhu said throngs of people opted to swap services when the new ride rolled into town less than a month ago.

Passenger Claire Chen said she rode the minibus for six months, touting its faster excursions, and originally defended the company when she told The Courier it was not fair for the bigger bus to encroach on its settled turf.

But Chen, 21, quickly jumped ship and leaped off the line during the interview, when a collector asked her for double the price, straying from the latest $1 promise posted on nearby signs.

“If they just stayed the same price, I would have stayed with the small bus, but it keeps changing,” she said.

Councilmember Peter Koo said the large buses pose severe problems for both pedestrians who cannot pass through the large crowds waiting on line, and for drivers on the street whose vision is impeded by the large buses.

“We contacted all the agencies. In the very near future, they will do something to stop them,” Koo said.

A police source said the 109th Precinct has issued summonses to the buses for obstructing traffic. One bus, the source said, even crashed into the NYPD’s SkyWatch observation tower located outside of the Flushing library on 41st Avenue and Main Street.

The new $1 bus loads passengers in a “No Standing” zone, but vehicles considered commuter buses are allowed to do so. However, authorities said the new buses — which carry more than 50 passengers — are likely not commuter buses and are violating more than just traffic laws.

According to TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg, under New York City law, commuter van services are only permitted to operate vehicles of up to 19 passengers. Larger vehicles exceeding that limit fall under the jurisdiction and licensing of the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), he said.

DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said city agencies are initiating an investigation and will pursue relevant legal or regulatory channels, including the possibility of state or federal enforcement.

The new bus service is said to be operated by New Oriental Tour, Inc., under the ownership of Tony Luo, who could not be reached. Drivers and fare collectors on site also declined to comment.