Our man with a plan on the van

The Brooklyn Paper
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Waiting — for a dollar van — is the hardest part.

That’s the lesson my photographer and I learned on Monday afternoon at Union and Columbia streets, a stop designated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission for inclusion in its controversial pilot program to replace MTA service with so-called dollar vans along the former B71 bus route.

After a disappointing experience last week in Kensington — we waited two hours in vain for the van service that replaced the defunct B23 bus — we weren’t exactly bullish about our prospects in Carroll Gardens for day one of the Brownstone Brooklyn experiment.

And at first, we were decidedly underwhelmed.

A half hour went by, and still no sight of the van service that would be connecting Carroll Gardens to Crown Heights, as the bus once did.

Then again, we got a chance to talk to former B71 riders such as David Geary and his two cute kids, Liam and Leila.

“I would take it if I had to go in that direction,” he said, examining a newly installed sign alerting prospective riders about the existence of the program.

But frankly, we were here for the van.

Three yellow cabs breezed past. An Access-A-Ride van pulled up, and driver Mario Sarazin unexpectedly offered us a lift.

“Where do you have to go?” he asked. “Flatbush Avenue?”

We declined. After all, the B71 is being operated by Brooklyn Van Lines, a company we featured when it was submitting a bid to the city for the right to operate on the route. Co-owners Sulaiman Haqq and Devon Gordon wouldn’t let us down. Would they?

Fifteen more minutes passed.

Then, as breathtaking as a humpback whale leaping from the sea, it appeared: a great white van, turning onto Union Street.

It was Gordon. He’d been working the route since 6 am. Slow going. Only picked up about 12 passengers that day — hardly enough to sustain the business.

But there was no quit in him, not yet at least.

“My perception is that it is going to get better,” he said.

He took a direct route from Carroll Gardens to Park Slope, navigating through narrow-ish Union Street on his way to Fourth Avenue. We arrived without incident.

He shook our hands warmly and wouldn’t take money for the ride.

He could have used it though.

Route information is available online at

Updated 12:05 am, September 29, 2010
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