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Van-demonium! Cops crack down on dollar vans, activist group calls it racist

The Brooklyn Paper
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Park Slope cops have been ticketing and seizing dollar vans since January, a move activists are calling a racially motivated blow against drivers trying to make a living.

Prospect Heights’ 78th police precinct has cited nine drivers and seized 14 of the vans, which these days charge $2 for sometimes-wild rides along major thoroughfares such as Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, according to cops. A community organizer argues that the crackdown is a racist reaction to black and Caribbean people who are just looking to bring home a paycheck.

“Most drivers are Caribbean or people of color,” said Imani Henry, an organizer with the community group Equality for Flatbush, which is campaigning to stop the anti-van initiative. “This is their income and people are trying to feed their families.”

A longtime dollar-van rider echoed Henry’s concerns, saying that the city is trying to scrub Flatbush Avenue of its trademark conveyances to appease future residents of luxury developments along the thoroughfare.

“This is gentrification 101,” said Derrick Edwards, who has lived on Flatbush Avenue for four years.

Another veteran dollar-van commuter said the no-frills rides fill in the gaps left by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s spotty service.

“The MTA is not always reliable,” said Cheryl Sealey, a Flatbush resident. “Folks use them as regular transportation not because they’re cheaper or anything, but to cut the time people have to wait at bus stations to get to work on time.”

But cops’ take is that the lead-footed drivers piloting un-permitted passenger vans and illegally picking up street hails pose a hazard to everyone else on the road.

“We want to send a message that they’re not safe,” said community affairs officer Brian Laffey.

Slopers and Prospect Heights residents complain that the vans often block traffic near bus stops to pick up and drop off passengers, according to Laffey. The 78th Precinct is still pouncing on scofflaw private-shuttle drivers and handing them over to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which will seize the vehicles and charge owners $1,500 to get them back, Laffey said.

Dollar vans are rolling liabilities because they often do not have adequate insurance, and there are no guarantees that the vans have been properly inspected and registered or that drivers are properly licensed, according to a Taxi and Limousine Commission rep.

Van drivers playing by the rules, which would technically include only picking up passengers who call ahead for rides, have nothing to fear, the spokesman said. The city offers licenses for passenger-van drivers and operators which are contingent on thrice-yearly van inspections, rider insurance, and drug tests and background checks for drivers.

Dollar van drivers and company owners unsuccessfully lobbied to get a shot at the 6,000 livery-cab street hail permits the city sold off for $1,500 each starting in 2012. All but 10 of the permits have been sold, according to city records. The illegal-but-long-tolerated vans are so ingrained into Brooklynites’ transit habits that the city recruited dollar-van hacks to pick up pedestrians along terminated bus routes in 2010, but the plan fell apart when no one would use the vans, officials said.

The buggies also plied the roads in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and hurricanes Irene and Sandy, when the city’s public transit network shuddered to a halt.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Context added, along with quote from Derrick Edwards.
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Reasonable discourse

Epiphany from Ex-Brooklyn says:
Better than making a living selling crack to neighbors like Jay Z did, or taking bribes and perks like the corrupt Brooklyn State Assembly and Senate members. Why do thieves and scammers always rise to top in Brooklyn?
April 14, 2014, 1:45 am
Amazed at the Hypocrisy from Brooklyn says:
Let me get this straight:

First minority groups wanted to make sure they have full access to due process protections. Yes, this is only fair and obviously everyone deserves such civil rights!

Now, some minority group does not want to follow due process, which entails getting a proper permit from the TLC that _every_one_else_in_the_world_ would have to get? ? They claim that having to go through due process is "racist"?

I think calling the group an "activist" organization is too kind. This isn't a tale of two cities. It's more like a bad science fiction B movie we're living in.

If the sun doesn't shine on a vacation day and I had wanted it to, can I call that "racist", too?
April 14, 2014, 5:07 am
jjm from c. hill says:
Big f'n deal. They have dollar vans in jamaica, queens & they run pretty smoothly as far as i know. I bet its the damn transients that are complaining about the vans, I guarantee you. Listen up newcomers, the dollar vans have been around for YEARS. This is NYC, we do things our way. If you cant accept it, then go back to the little quiet town that you came from.
April 14, 2014, 7:12 am
whooelse from allover says:
I'd rather work a dollar van then sell drugs & doing stick-ups. What the hell is wrong with these whining pansies? I agree jjm, its the newcomers that are the ones complaining. People have to understand, those TLC medallions are expensive. Quit trying to criticize people on how they earn a living. You're not paying any of their bills so don't try to tell someone how to live their lives. Mind your freakin business or get the hell outta NY & go back home to your little hick town.
April 14, 2014, 7:50 am
diehipster from Eliminating Ethans says:
Those old people that use those $1 vans should instead be cycling like Hayden and Morgan do from 1pm brunch to 3pm gallery viewing.
April 14, 2014, 8:05 am
Righteous Outrage from The Left Wing says:
This is an OUTRAGE!!! Caribbean people asked to register their business and pay taxes and insurance like everyone else?!?! Someone needs to remind these cops that people of color have a separate set of rules! What are they going to expect us to pay market rate rent next?? RACISTS!
April 14, 2014, 8:25 am
NYPD from NY says:
Of course that idiot cryhipster has to somehow bring "hipsters" into this story. What a pathetic loser.
April 14, 2014, 8:53 am
jjm from c. hill says:
Besides, when you try to do things the so-called "legal" way, you're still gonna get screwed at some point. Those medallions are pretty damn pricey from what i've heard plus they put you through hoops with paperwork so why bother? Do your thing & get that money. The system is a joke for real.
April 14, 2014, 9:09 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
When http://citibikenyc.com/ brings their bike racks to the hood, then there will be true equality for all.
April 14, 2014, 9:09 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Shuttle Bus says:
The Chooch finds it rather implausible that's its newcomers who are making the complaints here.

More likely it's a handful of those native Brooklyn battle-axes who sit on community boards and block associates and spend half their lives poking around after things the average yuppie or hipster doesn't even notice.

The kinds of hard-boiled Yankee fans who take time out to look inside dumpsters to see if the refuse is legal, and who even know what kind of refuse is legal or not.

Those native-born eagle-beaks who notice that the Pakistani convenience store has a leaky air conditioner that's causing a dribble along the sidewalk that warrants a 311 call.

Let'z be real. Yuppies and hipsters don't pay attention to this stuff. A gypsy bus rattling down Flatbush Avenue? Which bus? And who cares?

No, this story is about Irene Grabowski rolling down 5th Avenue in her 1972 Chevy Impala and paying attention to everyone else's business. "Look! Look at that! Will ya look at that! He's trying to cut into the bus lane!"

Blessed are the Irene Grabowskis of Brooklyn, for they are the vigilant citizens who blow the whistle on things that newcomers don't even see.
April 14, 2014, 9:15 am
jjm from c. hill says:
@Rufus, nah they can keep it. Nobody in the hood wants that citibike crap.
April 14, 2014, 9:16 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Everyone has to play by the rules. It costs a lot to get into business, and you can't cut corners. Brooklyn is not Mogadishu. You want a taxi medallion? Then wash dishes for ten years and buy one. You want a six-figure income? Then get yourself a six-figure student debt. Those are the rules.
April 14, 2014, 9:29 am
Notorious N.E.D from Greenpoint says:
Actually it may be the 'hipsters' fault.

Like poster 'whoelse' almost figured out, "those TLC medallions are expensive." So is the MTA infrastructure. So are the lawsuits that will come if one of those unlicensed, uninsured 'business' gets into an accident and kill or hurts somebody. There is too much money at stake in Brooklyn now. It really has nothing to do with race. The days of a second under the radar economy is ending. If that's you're thing, try Baltimore.
April 14, 2014, 9:29 am
Jim from Park slope says:
I agree with 78 pct enforcement.These vans drive unsafe speeds and cause dangerous condition to pedestrians,vehicles and cyclist .78 pct is going to make vision zero a reality !!!
Bravo 78!!!!
April 14, 2014, 9:34 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
There's no "fault" here except that of the illegal taxi driver. Who turned him in is a matter of conjecture. The Chooch supposes is was a native Brooklynite, over 65.
April 14, 2014, 9:49 am
JAZ from Hunting Redbeards says:
Chooch - I've seen hipsters go into hysterics when an Access A Ride van was blocking the bike lane for 3 whole minutes while waiting for someone they were picking up; I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find them being the ones nasally honking about the dollar vans.
April 14, 2014, 9:56 am
George from Sheepshead Bay says:
These Vans drive very recklessly, I ride my bike down Flatbush on the way to work most week days and they have cut me off on many occasions just to get that $2. They don't care if they hurt someone. It's racist to want them to drive legally and have insurance??? What an idiotic comment.
April 14, 2014, 9:58 am
jjm from c. hill says:
There is a little bit a of a racial element when you think about it. You dont see any white driving dollar van now do ya?? Plus its some people out there that just hate to see black people make money & live comfortable. @chooch, that same money thats at stake in BK is gonna be its downfall because all of the greed always falter at some point.
April 14, 2014, 9:59 am
whooelse from allover says:
It really doesnt matter if their vans get seized. They'll just pay to get it back & be right back out there in the morning whats the point of cracking down on them? We all gotta eat so look in the damn mirror before you try to chastize someone else. Stop messing with peoples' livelyhood.
April 14, 2014, 10:15 am
whooelse from allover says:
It really doesnt matter if their vans get seized. They'll just pay to get it back & be right back out there in the morning whats the point of cracking down on them? We all gotta eat so look in the damn mirror before you try to chastize someone else. Stop messing with peoples' livelyhood.
April 14, 2014, 10:15 am
jjm from c. hill says:
Me personally, i could care less about the law. The law IS the problem.
April 14, 2014, 10:59 am
ty from pps says:
"Stop messing with people's livelihoods" -- hmm... Interesting position. What happens when this "livelihood" runs over someone else and strips them of their livelihood? Hmmm? Ya know, because they are operating a business, but don't carry licensing or insurance for that business?

While I find The Chooch's 3rd person comments a bit annoying, I concur with his statement -- This is not Mogadishu. (Even though a lot of you seem to want it to be.)
April 14, 2014, 11:15 am
Dee says:
Its called following the laws and safety. I drove down flatbush and I almost got hit by the dollar vans trying to compete for customers. They ran through red lights and all that ——. F that
April 14, 2014, 11:22 am
Jim from Park slope says:
These vans are a nuisance , dangerous and illegal.You want a livelihood go drive a cab legitimately with a license,insurance and proper paperwork .I see these dollar vans speeding up and down flatbush on a regular basis causing a hazardous condition for everybody just to get a 2 dollar fare.Vision Zero is here to stay New Yorkers and attention to our street safety is becoming a priority
April 14, 2014, 11:32 am
jjm from c. hill says:
They could always use 4th ave, hanson pl & other surrounding blocks so just deal with it. They are NOT going anywhere. Leave 'em alone, geez!!
April 14, 2014, 11:35 am
diehipster from Left Hooking Logans says:
And there goes the incredibly defensive and delusional Chooch - writing dozens of pro-yup and hipster posts per story - thinking his quantity not quality is convincing us that every square inch of Brooklyn has been transformed into the land of brunch and fingerprinting.

Maybe a dollar van will break down and block in his Volvo.

LLAB! BABY!
April 14, 2014, 11:39 am
ty from pps says:
jjm -- Leave 'em alone... ya know, until they hit your car or run you down, then discover that their insurance is invalid (maybe personal vehicle insurance, maybe commercial, but certainly not livery or bus insurance -- much too expensive, that's racist) and the insurance company denies your claims and you are left with a mountain of bills, maybe lost income, etc. etc. with no recourse but to sue this deadbeat still racing around Brooklyn in a van.
April 14, 2014, 11:43 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
I hate to be the one to say this, but I've been waiting: These vans are troublesome-the last time John Wasserman took one, he also was offered "cracked cocaine" and pieces of "weed pot grass". It was a terrifying trip, even after he reached his destination.
April 14, 2014, 11:46 am
jjm from c. hill says:
@Ty, 1st of all, i know how to.cross the street, unlike some of you smart-looking idiots who are too busy look at your damn cellphone every 3 seconds, thats how accidents happen. 2nd of all, they are hard working people just like anybody else. Everybody cant go to college and/or work for a major cooperation & whatnot so dont be judgmental of anyone. You dont live in anyone else's shoes but your own so check yourself before you try to check anybody.
April 14, 2014, 11:50 am
jjm from c. hill says:
@Ty, 1st of all, i know how to.cross the street, unlike some of you smart-looking idiots who are too busy look at your damn cellphone every 3 seconds, thats how accidents happen. 2nd of all, they are hard working people just like anybody else. Everybody cant go to college and/or work for a major cooperation & whatnot so dont be judgmental of anyone. You dont live in anyone else's shoes but your own so check yourself before you try to check anybody.
April 14, 2014, 11:50 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
These sentiments like "lighten up" and "you gotta make a living" and "do what you gotta do" and "this is Brooklyn, go with the punches or get out" and on and on. These are the sugar-coated appeals to a thug culture.

You're trying to say if you're poor or racially disadvantaged, then basic rules of safety on the road should not apply to you.

If this taxi racket were a hipster thing, and it were all beardos driving these gypsy cabs, we all know the chorus on this thread would be singing an entirely different song.
April 14, 2014, 11:55 am
jjm from c. hill says:
@Chooch, no one is implying that its thug culture. Its just the fact that traditional BK is clashing with the watered-down-uppity BK & the watered-down-uppity BK should not try to make traditional BK upset because it can get ugly.
April 14, 2014, 12:13 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
"1st of all, i know how to.cross the street, unlike some of you smart-looking idiots who are too busy look at your damn cellphone every 3 seconds, thats how accidents happen. 2nd of all, they are hard working people just like anybody else. Everybody cant go to college and/or work for a major cooperation & whatnot so dont be judgmental of anyone. You dont live in anyone else's shoes but your own so check yourself before you try to check anybody"

That said. WHY CAN'T A GET A DECENT JERK PATTY IN PROSPECT HEIGHTS THESE DAYS?

Pardon my asking such.
April 14, 2014, 12:14 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
For example, how do you reconcile calling for licenses and more stringent rules on bicycles, and in the next minute calling for a slackening of existing rules on certain motor vehicles. It's an irrational position, because it's based on visceral feelings, not on reason.
April 14, 2014, 12:18 pm
ty from pps says:
"1st of all, I know how to cross the street"

Hmm... so, no dollar vans have been in the news for jumping the curb and crushing people on the sidewalk? And clearly there's a magic bubble around them to protect drivers from their nutjob driving?

I'm not judgmental about driving a van. That's good (and can be honest) work. I'm judgmental about scum bags who operate illegal businesses and don't carry proper insurance for the business they choose to operate... like ALL businesses are required to do.

Do you think you need to go to college or work for a major corporation to be a carpenter/handman? Nope. But you are supposed to be licensed and carry insurance to do anything but the most cosmetic of work.

But guess what? I am not that concerned about unlicensed handymen as much as I am about unlicensed and uninsured 4-ton blocks of steel and glass careening down the road full of people.
April 14, 2014, 12:25 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
jjim, I'm sorry you're upset, but you shouldn't project your anger about the laws of motor vehicle safety onto any demographic group in the borough. If you really feel strongly that gypsy cab drivers should be exempt from the rules of the road, then you should articulate this in a letter to your city council person.
April 14, 2014, 12:30 pm
ty from pps says:
I wasn't sleeping, I was meditating
April 14, 2014, 12:58 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Pardon me, but what good shall writing this "letter" do?
Sorry for the interruption.
April 14, 2014, 3:05 pm
diehipster from Suckingoff Logans says:
For the record, I hate these vans! They kicked me off for masturbating in the back. I mean the dude next to me was sleeping.
L
L
A
B
April 14, 2014, 3:34 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
No more good than gassing off here, jjim. Because you don't have an argument. What's your argument. New Brooklyn should not "try to make old Brooklyn upset?"

a) what does that have to do with illegal taxis, nothing.

b) who cares if we make you upset.
April 14, 2014, 3:52 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
a) it has EVERYTHING to do with illegal taxis, if you don't mind, and
2) a lot of people care when I get upset (including you-as noted above).
Pardon the interruption.
April 14, 2014, 5:02 pm
Pietro from Park Slope says:
Lets get the Police Blotter crime reports back from the 78th and 72d.
No Excuses.
April 14, 2014, 5:23 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Okay, so you're upset jjim because you think hack cabbies should be exempt from the rules and not have to carry insurance. Am I getting that right? And tell me again what this has to do with hipsters?
April 14, 2014, 5:27 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Everything. It has EVERYTHING to do with hipsters, if you'll pardon me. I apologize for the interruption, but sometimes there is no other way out.
I'm willing to bet that this Chooch character (if that is his real name) was never very successful with simple arithmetic.
April 14, 2014, 5:46 pm
jay from nyc says:
The Dollar van are the WORST drivers in the entire city. They are reckless, dangerous and oblivious to everything except making that next dollar. If another driver shot and killed a dollar driver, I would acquit them on the grounds that driver was defending his/her own life from the dollar van driver killing them with their over sized van. They are horrible.
April 14, 2014, 5:51 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Okay, okay-the Chooch gets it. The Chooch abides. Relax my man. Alacabunzah!
April 14, 2014, 5:52 pm
Will from Brooklyn says:
I guess those dollar van drivers are great unless they pee in your garden like my friends on East 53rd and U or they are driving anywhere near you because they can't freaking drive.
April 14, 2014, 6:25 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Pardon the imitator. Im the REAL jjm, not that faker try to be me.
April 14, 2014, 8:18 pm
I'm from East 53rd and U says:
Will, your friends drive dollar vans and pee in people's gardens on East 53rd and U?
April 14, 2014, 10:39 pm
Brooklyn from Brooklyn says:
What an embarrassingly useless comment section. The Brooklyn Paper is worthless.
April 15, 2014, 8:22 am
Will from Brooklyn says:
Wow your a real wit East 53rd. I would love to see what happened if a white guy started pulling up at kings plaza in a dollar van. I wonder how the other drivers would react.
April 15, 2014, 9:31 am
Will from Brooklyn says:
Sorry, you're a real wit East 53rd.Don't want to confuse you
April 15, 2014, 9:42 am
CommonSense from Crown Heights says:
This isn't racist, it's simple economics. The MTA and DOT have been making changes to streets to make driving uncomfortable there by increasing their fares. Like these politicians say "never let a good tragedy go to waste" so they use pedestrian deaths to pull on the heart strings of the naive. For every dollar van rider that's $2.50 not in the MTA's pocket. It's not unheard of for drivers to make $1,000 a day at least. That's money the city is not getting it's "fair" share of.
April 15, 2014, 2:54 pm
ty from pps says:
What?
"The MTA and DOT have been making changes to streets to make driving uncomfortable there by increasing their fares."

I would love to hear more... sounds like an fun conspiracy theory in the works!
April 15, 2014, 8:24 pm
Real nyer from Ps says:
I am not sure why anyone would be shocked that the hipsters and yuppies complaining about the dollar vans. For crying out loud they complain about ice cream vendors (boohoo) and birds chirping. This is truly what NYC is really about. Dollar vans have been around forever and benefit lots of working people that dont have convenient transportation. If you really don't like it, take a tissue, dry your tears and buy a one way ticket back to michigan, Kansas, or wherever the hell you came from. Trust me Nyc will do just fine without you.
April 15, 2014, 9:33 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Ya ya. Dollar vans have been around forever, and so have crackheads and affordable apartments. Here today, gone tomorrow. So have a hanky sweetheart, dry your tears, Central Islip ain't so bad.
April 15, 2014, 10:22 pm
Paper Planes from M. I. A. says:
Sometimes I think sitting on trains
Every stop I get to I'm clocking that game
Everyone's a winner, we're making our fame
Bona fide hustler making my name

All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)
And (KKKAAAA CHING!)
And take your money
April 15, 2014, 10:31 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
I don't want to be that guy, Latisha... but it is "dolla" and "bidnez".
April 16, 2014, 9:33 am
Matt from Greenpoint says:
Too many cops with not enough to do, due the gentrification and all.
These vans should get medallions around the time bicyclistsers get a license and insurance, as their bikes often cost more than these vans.
April 16, 2014, 9:36 am
Matt from Greenpoint says:
On another related note:
Does it seem to anyone other than myself that the hipsters' facial structure is changing, forehead forward, eyes narrowing, and somehow the smirk of self-absorbed pseudo-irony turning into sort of an embarrassed grimace somehow? Maybe its just me; the way the Spring sun hits the flannel or something like that. But I swear I could have seen a 40 year old man actually hiding his skateboard in public.
April 16, 2014, 9:46 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I'm sort of mixed on dollar vans. In one way, they do help those that aren't near any bus lines, but in another, they do operate illegally. There are many cities that have something like this that does operate separately from public transportation that have their own funding. The only reason why gypsy cabs are considered illegal is because they fail to keep up with rules that TLC makes not to mention overcharges the passengers that use them. Keep in mind that only major cities have an actual taxi services while everywhere else there are car services. Unless there is something illegal these dollar van companies are doing, they are doing nothing wrong, and taking away revenue from the MTA isn't one of them. Maybe if they didn't cut bus lines, there wouldn't be a need for dollar vans on those roads, who are using the ones they aren't right now.
April 16, 2014, 2:50 pm
Chad from West Village says:
Honey, if you think how they treat Dollar Vans is bad, you just have no idea idea how they treat Three Dollar Vans!
April 17, 2014, 5:03 am
Abe from C says:
Dollar van drivers use CB radios to communicate. If you want to hear racist talk get an old CB for a few bucks and tune in.
April 17, 2014, 8:21 am

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