They want to buck the dollar van trend.
The city is cracking down on so-called “dollar vans” operating illegally, in response to a hit-and-run near Kings Plaza that claimed a local man’s life in August. The vans operate as for-hire vehicles — usually charging $2 for rides up and down arterial roadways such as Flatbush Avenue — but many drivers are not licensed with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which ensures they are insured and have a safe record, and now officials plan to seize and auction off vans whose drivers are busted twice for illegal operation, according to a local pol who has been pushing the new program.
“We are working on a program — looking to make sure that becomes part of the protocol for NYPD and TLC — that they can take illegal vans off the street, because the people getting on these vans have no clue that they are not insured and have no clue they are not licensed,” said state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Marine Park).
Currently, cops only issue fines when they catch unlicensed livery drivers, but that is not enough — drivers consider the penalties a cost of doing business, but the prospect of losing their wheels entirely may get more traction, according to a taxi commission spokesman.
“The disincentive is obviously huge,” said agency rep Allan Fromberg.
The city plans to start the new second-strike program within the next few months, but first offenses would still only result in a summons, he said.
Police used to seize vehicles on first offenses — sometimes before alleged offenders were even found guilty — until a judge ruled the practice unconstitutional in 2015. But the two-strike policy appears to stand on firmer legal ground, Fromberg said.
Meantime, officers from the 63rd Precinct — which encompasses Marine Park and Mill Basin — are handing out more tickets, Golden said.
“There’s been hundreds of summonses, Captain Burke [the precinct’s commander] is doing an outstanding job. The TLC is doing an outstanding job,” he said.
The pre-2015 practice of seizing vans was a major blow to drivers, and the proposed program will hit them where it hurts, one unlicensed dollar van operator said.
“It’s my personal van. It will mess me up,” said a driver at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U who refused to give his name.