For decades, the legal commuter vans have been authorized by the state and city's Department of Transportation (DOT) to pick up and drop off passengers on the eastern side of Parsons Boulevard between Archer and Jamaica avenue in busy downtown Jamaica.
However, commuter van owners were told on April 16 they would have to relocate to 153rd Street, a more desolate location
Clagett Watson, president and CEO of Hummer Transportation, and has been in the commuter van industry for more than 30 years. He blamed Councilman I. Daneek Miller for the move.
“The city and Daneek Miller have had their meetings all along and have never invited any of us,” Watson said. “They never had a meeting with anyone from the community.”
After contacting the Mayor’s Office, DOT, City Council and NYPD, van owners claimed everyone was willing to listen to their issues with the move, except for Miller.
“They heard our side of the story and are willing to help us, and everyone’s come to the table except for Mr. Miller,” Watson said. “He’s the person who is pushing us out.”
Hector Ricketts is president of the Commuter Vans Association of New York. Every Friday, vendors from upstate hold a farmers market, and members of his group believe the move is intended to cater to those particular vendors.
“The farmers come down here to sell their produce, but they come here with their own water and coffee, they don’t even spend a dollar here in the community,” Watson said. “All of us drivers, we live here, we pay taxes for years here.”
For those who say that vans pose a threat to the community, Watson insisted that issues are probably linked to the illegal vans on the roads.
“Legal vans work within the limits of the law, why would we be so stupid to do any wrongdoing?” Watson asked.
Grace Peck has used the commuter vans everyday for the past 14 years after she moved to Rosedale. Her daughters also use the vans after getting off the train at night. She is against the relocation to 153rd Street.
“I don’t want them to go into some dark and secluded spot,” Peck said. “I’ve gotten to know all of the drivers over the years, and they’re all pretty good guys who are like family.”
The vans are needed in the neighborhood, according to former driver Winston Sewell, who drove his van for a decade. Like Peck, he explained that the new location is dangerous because it’s poorly lit and that the area floods when there is heavy rain.
“We support the community by transporting people, we even help the poor people who cannot afford transportation,” Sewell said. “What they’re doing now to the vans is not really justified.”