Report shows that New York City poverty rates are down

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By Gina Martinez

TimesLedger Newspapers

Poverty rates across the city are down, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity released its annual New York City Government Poverty Measure report last Friday. The report said that both the poverty rate and the near-poverty rate, which applies to people living below 150 percent of the city’s poverty threshold, have decreased since last year’s report. The city said there were 141,000 fewer New Yorkers in poverty or near poverty in 2016 compared with 2013.

The report showed a 1.6 percentage point decline in the near-poverty rate, going from 45.1 percent of New Yorkers in 2014 to 43.5 percent in 2016. The report also found that New Yorkers in actual poverty has declined since 2014, from 20.6 percent to 19.5 percent of New Yorkers.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is on pace to reach its goal of moving 800,000 people out of poverty or near poverty by 2025. New York City has a population of about 8.5 million.

“We’re always working to make this city fairer for everyone, and it’s promising to see there are fewer New Yorkers living in or near poverty,” de Blasio said. “From Pre-K for All to paid family and sick leave to the most ambitious affordable housing plan in the city’s history, we are working to provide opportunities that will make a lasting difference in the lives of New Yorkers.”

The city attributed the decrease in poverty to the steady economic growth which has led to more New Yorkers having jobs. The median household income in New York City has increased 7.8 percent since 2014 and income in the bottom 20th percentile has increased 4.0 percent from 2014, according to the report. The city said a significant factor in the decline in poverty has been increases in the minimum wage, which the city lobbied for at the state level.

City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the General Welfare Committee, said the city must always be a place where people can find economic security for themselves and their families.

“I am heartened to see progress for our most vulnerable residents despite economic challenges in the wake of a recession,” he said. “The city’s continued investment in innovative and critical initiatives has been key, and I hope we will see continued reductions in poverty in the years to come.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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Source: Times Ledger

Report: Queens is the place to live for middle-income New Yorkers

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

A new report from StreetEasy found that Queens remains a haven for middle-income New Yorkers.

The “Earn more, pay less? Average Housing cost and incomes by NYC borough” report mapped how average housing costs in the city stack up against average income levels across the five boroughs. StreetEasy found that one in three New Yorkers finds the city unaffordable, yet relatively few perceive their own homes as unaffordable.

The report said one explanation for this anomaly could be that there is a disconnect between the homes listed on the market and what most people actually pay that fuels negative perceptions of the cost of living in New York.

The study used census data covering homes that are rent-controlled, rent-stabilized and rent-subsidized. It breaks out the cost of renting, the cost of owning, and income levels for homeowners and renters by borough to get an accurate picture of the financial outlook for New Yorkers earning the median household income.

Queens residents had the most to celebrate, according to StreetEasy. The report claims the costs of renting and owning in Queens are closest to the citywide medians of any borough, which StreetEasy said made good on Queens’ reputation as the place of choice for middle-class New Yorkers.

Renters in Queens spend an average of $16,812 on rent of their $45,549 annual income, compared to homeowners who spend an average of $29,256 on housing cost of their $80,144 annual income. The cost-to-income ratio for renters was 36 percent, while homeowners spent 37 percent of their annual income.

StreetEasy said the median renter in Queens earns slightly more than the citywide median income, but also faces slightly higher housing costs.

“Homeowners in Queens, however, are slightly less well off, typically earning less than the citywide median income for homeowners and also seeing slightly lower housing costs,” the report said. “The divergent costs of renting and owning in Queens are further corroborated by a recent StreetEasy market report that found rents falling across the borough as sales prices hit an all-time high.”

The study went on to show that on average, Brooklyn renters and buyers earn less than the New York City median income. For homeowners, Brooklyn has the highest housing cost-to-income burden, with 38 percent. The income burden for renters is also high, with renters in Brooklyn earning an average of $20,000 less than those in Manhattan. Compared to Manhattanites, homeowners in Brooklyn earn an average of nearly $60,000 less per year.

StreetEasy said Bronx residents fared the worst, with renters and owners earning the least of any borough. Despite facing the lowest housing costs, residents are significantly burdened. The Bronx has the highest median-rent-to-income ratio in all of New York City, meaning that the average renter earned $29,302 and spend $13,176 — 45 percent of their annual income — in rent.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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Source: Times Ledger

LeFrak City tenants rally against Board of Elections’ appeal of voting rights ruling

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

LeFrak City tenants rallied with civil rights activists on the steps of City Hall Monday to demand the city Board of Elections immediately withdraw its appeal of an October 2017 court ruling that prevented the agency from permanently relocating the residential complex’s longstanding polling sites.

Last month, the BOE filed a 46-page brief with the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division claiming that New York County Supreme Court Justice Erika M. Edwards “encroached on the board’s authority” when she ruled that the BOE’s relocation of polling sites at LeFrak City was “irrational, arbitrary and capricious.”

Attorneys Arthur Schwartz and Ethan Felder, on behalf of the petitioners, will submit their own amicus brief challenging the appeal by the BOE and the Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, represented by Zachary Carter.

“All too often, the Board of Elections’ processes are opaque and difficult for citizens to influence,” lead attorney Schwartz said. “The LeFrak decision created a small window which hopefully we can widen. The Board of Elections is wrong to assert, as it does here, that their decisions are beyond review. New York has the 46th lowest voter turnout in the U.S., and the NYC Board of Elections deserve a lot of blame for that statistic.”

The battle began last summer when LeFrak tenants learned that their polling place — containing five different election districts — would be moved from within the complex’s Continental Room, where they have been voting for more than 50 years, to schools three-quarters of a mile away. Its 6,000 voters, many of whom are minority, elderly or disabled, would have to disperse to other sites that do not have public transportation options.

“Plain and simple, this is an attack on LeFrak City residents,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “Through their actions, the BOE has shown they are playing political games in order to disenfranchise voters living there. The courts have ruled — any poll site relocations at LeFrak are irrational — and I am calling on the board to withdrawal their appeal efforts.”

At the October 2017 New York Supreme Court hearing, Edwards issued an order for the immediate relocation of four of the five Election Districts — the 15th, 16th, 18th and 25th — back to LeFrak City, thereby reversing the actions of the BOE.

“The right to vote is paramount and I stand strongly with LeFrak City tenants as they fight to ensure that their longstanding polling sites remain within the community,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said in a statement backing the rally. “Any restriction of voting access to communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, senior citizens, or any eligible voters stifles our citizens’ voices and their right to be heard. I will not allow that to occur in LeFrak City. It is past time for the New York City Board of Elections to drop their misguided effort to move these polling sites.”

The BOE did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

“They are not above the law. Every elected official in the city and state should stand with us and the LeFrak City tenants,” The Black Institute President and Founder Bertha Lewis said. “This is voter suppression at its height, thereby disenfranchising one of the largest concentrations of minority voters in the city. We might as well be in Mississippi.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Source: Times Ledger

Jamaica man sentenced for selling stolen vans: DA

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

Aziz Salaam, a South Road Jamaica resident, was sentenced to join two co-conspirators in jail last week for selling stolen Econoline vans, Ford’s E-Series of cargo vans, the Queens district attorney said.

The criminal complaint filed by the DA’s office said that in order to feed his drug habit, Salaam sold stolen vans to a scrap yard in Ozone Park and falsified documents to do it.

“This defendant, who purportedly had a drug problem, supported his habit at the expense of the rightful owners of the stolen Econoline vans,” said Brown.

On June 17, 2016 Salaam submitted a falsified MV35 form, a document that would designate him as a vehicle collector, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

On five separate occasions from June 17, 2016 to June 27, 2016 he brought in a total of five Econoline vans that were stolen to the Ozone Park scrap yard, according to Brown.

This led to Salaam being charged with five counts of falsifying business records, criminal possession of a stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle, the DA said.

He committed two of the crimes with Keith Royster and Steven Fields, both of Jamaica.

Both men pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal possession of stolen property in August of 2017 and have been sentenced to a year in jail.

Salaam was sentenced to up to four years in prison after being convicted in a jury trial, the DA’s office said.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger

Whitestone residents claim their water pipes often run dry

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By Gina Martinez

TimesLedger Newspapers

Residents of 2nd Avenue in Whitestone said they have been living each day not knowing if they will have water due to insufficient pipes.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was joined by eight homeowners from 2nd Avenue to call on the city and the DEP to address serious quality-of-life issues regarding their water. Avella said that for years eight homes on 2nd Avenue between 147th Street and 147th Place have dealt with flooding conditions and poor water pressure, if they have had water at all. Residents said the flooding issue was resolved when the city Department of Transportation resurfaced their road but the city has not addressed the lack of water.

Avella said he has reached out to DEP since 2013 about the water problem and has gotten zero response.

Residents are blaming the lack of water on an inadequate, two-inch wide water supply pipe that is not able to service all of the homes on the block. While the DEP has acknowledged in the past that the pipes are not wide enough, Avella contends the DEP has refused to take any action.

Homeowners said that when a pipe on the corner of 147th Place and 2nd Avenue broke last June, the DEP claimed it was a private line and refused to get involved. Residents said they were forced to pay out of pocket for someone to repair the broken pipe and were then charged by the department $1,000 each to have the water turned backed on.

Residents deny that they are using a private pipe.

A DEP spokesman said that engineers were investigating.

“We have sanitation, we get mail, we pay taxes and we don’t have private anything else, so why would we need a private water supply?” 2nd Avenue resident Georgia Theofanis asked. “The city is providing us with water.”

Theofanis said homes on 2nd Avenue can sometimes go from six to eight hours without water.

“Many times we wake up and there’s nothing coming out of our faucets,” she said. “We can’t take a shower, flush the toilet, or even drink water. There’s nothing there. It happens to all eight houses at the same time. Maybe we’ll have some water, but it will be drips at a time. It’s not once or twice, it’s an ongoing thing.”

Avella wonders why the city will pave roads, but not provide adequate water service. He said 2nd Avenue is clearly not a private street and he and the neighbors are renewing their call for the city and the DEP to begin a capital project on the street in order to install sufficient water pipes.

The senator said when a capital project is requested, it usually takes a minimum of five years before action is taken. His original request is already more than five years old. Avella said the city should be ashamed for depriving taxpayers of a decent quality of life.

“Imagine getting up every morning and not knowing if you’re going to have any water in your house that day,” he said. “That is exactly what is happening to these homeowners. They pay their water and sewer bills like every other New York homeowner, but the city withholds basic city services from them. It is so frustrating that the city bureaucracy won’t come and help these people, but they’re going to have to. You shouldn’t have to live like this, that’s the bottom line.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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Source: Times Ledger

LIC Partnership’s annual report shows “tremendous growth across all real estate sectors” in booming neighborhood

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

More than 6,200 new residential units are slated to come online in Long Island City within the next year, which will bring the total number of new apartments to nearly 22,000, according to the “LIC Neighborhood Snapshot,” an annual report presented by the Long Island City Partnership at its 13th-annual real estate breakfast last week.

The report found that in the past year, the fastest growing neighborhood in the country has seen 1.2 million square feet of industrial and commercial space open to the market and an additional 5.2 million square feet in the pipeline.

Long Island City has gained 160,000 square feet of new retail space over the past year, with another 536,000 square feet to be built by 2021. The report includes more than 10,200 residential units currently in construction or proposed beyond 2020, while a number of large employers are expanding or relocating to LIC including Altice USA, Boyce Technologies, Fidelis Care, J. Crew, Ralph Lauren and Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“This year’s Neighborhood Snapshot perfectly captures our dynamic, mixed-use, live/work community that’s coming into focus,” LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “While previous Snapshots showed rises in individual sectors, this report revealed tremendous growth across all sectors in Long Island City. We anticipate even greater demand for space in LIC now that Cornell Tech is open and as the life sciences initiatives of the city and state take shape.”

Last month, the partnership announced it retained the services of East Egg Project Management to help develop a plan that will create a life sciences cluster in LIC as the group seeks to attract emerging and established businesses across the life sciences sector, which encompasses biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, digital health, medical devices and others to complement and build on the array of companies in the area. Both the city and state have expressed the desire to create a life sciences campus in New York City and LIC is increasingly recognized as one of the most promising areas of the city for such a cluster to develop.

“Over the past several years, we have seen a significant increase of inquiries from companies related to life sciences and we want to catalyze growth in this sector here,” Lusskin said. “We are excited to have East Egg’s expertise guiding us through this initiative and the support of the regional Economic Development Council to make this study possible.”

The partnership was awarded a grant in December by the state Regional Economic Development Council to fund a portion of this effort, while the city Economic Development Corporation’s current request for expressions of interests for an Applied Life Sciences Hub specifically refers to LIC as a potential location.

The partnership’s plan will be completed by June.

“We’re very excited to be working with the partnership to develop a plan to catalyze life sciences activity in Long Island City,” East Egg Project Management Principal Yasmeen Ahmed Pattie said. “New York has been talking about the sector in this part of the city for years. It finally seems that all the right factors — city and state initiatives, transit improvements and real estate market conditions — are coming together, The findings of this study will help LIC take a major step forward.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Source: Times Ledger

LIC Partnership’s annual report shows “tremendous growth across all real estate sectors” in booming neighborhood

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

More than 6,200 new residential units are slated to come online in Long Island City within the next year, which will bring the total number of new apartments to nearly 22,000, according to the “LIC Neighborhood Snapshot,” an annual report presented by the Long Island City Partnership at its 13th-annual real estate breakfast last week.

The report found that in the past year, the fastest growing neighborhood in the country has seen 1.2 million square feet of industrial and commercial space open to the market and an additional 5.2 million square feet in the pipeline.

Long Island City has gained 160,000 square feet of new retail space over the past year, with another 536,000 square feet to be built by 2021. The report includes more than 10,200 residential units currently in construction or proposed beyond 2020, while a number of large employers are expanding or relocating to LIC including Altice USA, Boyce Technologies, Fidelis Care, J. Crew, Ralph Lauren and Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“This year’s Neighborhood Snapshot perfectly captures our dynamic, mixed-use, live/work community that’s coming into focus,” LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “While previous Snapshots showed rises in individual sectors, this report revealed tremendous growth across all sectors in Long Island City. We anticipate even greater demand for space in LIC now that Cornell Tech is open and as the life sciences initiatives of the city and state take shape.”

Last month, the partnership announced it retained the services of East Egg Project Management to help develop a plan that will create a life sciences cluster in LIC as the group seeks to attract emerging and established businesses across the life sciences sector, which encompasses biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, digital health, medical devices and others to complement and build on the array of companies in the area. Both the city and state have expressed the desire to create a life sciences campus in New York City and LIC is increasingly recognized as one of the most promising areas of the city for such a cluster to develop.

“Over the past several years, we have seen a significant increase of inquiries from companies related to life sciences and we want to catalyze growth in this sector here,” Lusskin said. “We are excited to have East Egg’s expertise guiding us through this initiative and the support of the regional Economic Development Council to make this study possible.”

The partnership was awarded a grant in December by the state Regional Economic Development Council to fund a portion of this effort, while the city Economic Development Corporation’s current request for expressions of interests for an Applied Life Sciences Hub specifically refers to LIC as a potential location.

The partnership’s plan will be completed by June.

“We’re very excited to be working with the partnership to develop a plan to catalyze life sciences activity in Long Island City,” East Egg Project Management Principal Yasmeen Ahmed Pattie said. “New York has been talking about the sector in this part of the city for years. It finally seems that all the right factors — city and state initiatives, transit improvements and real estate market conditions — are coming together, The findings of this study will help LIC take a major step forward.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Source: Times Ledger

Jamaica man pleads guilty to sex trafficking of teen girl: DA

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

A 29-year-old man from Jamaica pleaded guilty last week to sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl into prostitution, the Queens district attorney said.

Reagan “Flex” Conception pleaded guilty to only one count of sex trafficking in Queens Criminal Court April 12 before Supreme Court Judge Peter Vallone in Kew Gardens.

In the fall of 2016, Conception forced the then 14-year-old to have sex with him on multiple occasions and then with various other men for money that he then pocketed, according to Queens DA Richard Brown.

When the victim did not comply with his demands, he threatened her with physical violence and then physically assaulted her until she engaged in prostitution from September 2016 to November 2016, said Brown.

Conception was arraigned in June 2017 on a 76-count indictment of sex trafficking, rape, kidnapping, criminal sexual act, compelling prostitution, promoting prostitution, assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

“The defendant profited from prostitution by forcing a teenage girl into having sex dates with men for money,” Brown said.

If Conception had not confessed, but was convicted of his crimes, he would have faced up to 25 years in prison. Instead he faces an indeterminate term of six to 12 years in prison at his sentencing May 9, according to Vallone.

“Luckily, this young girl was freed, but unfortunately she will have to live with this horrible experience for the rest of her life,” said Brown. “Prostitution is not a victimless crime and sex trafficking is an incessant act of brutality and degradation. The sentence imposed today by the court punishes the defendant for his criminal acts.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger

Jamaica man pleads guilty to sex trafficking of teen girl: DA

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

A 29-year-old man from Jamaica pleaded guilty last week to sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl into prostitution, the Queens district attorney said.

Reagan “Flex” Conception pleaded guilty to only one count of sex trafficking in Queens Criminal Court April 12 before Supreme Court Judge Peter Vallone in Kew Gardens.

In the fall of 2016, Conception forced the then 14-year-old to have sex with him on multiple occasions and then with various other men for money that he then pocketed, according to Queens DA Richard Brown.

When the victim did not comply with his demands, he threatened her with physical violence and then physically assaulted her until she engaged in prostitution from September 2016 to November 2016, said Brown.

Conception was arraigned in June 2017 on a 76-count indictment of sex trafficking, rape, kidnapping, criminal sexual act, compelling prostitution, promoting prostitution, assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

“The defendant profited from prostitution by forcing a teenage girl into having sex dates with men for money,” Brown said.

If Conception had not confessed, but was convicted of his crimes, he would have faced up to 25 years in prison. Instead he faces an indeterminate term of six to 12 years in prison at his sentencing May 9, according to Vallone.

“Luckily, this young girl was freed, but unfortunately she will have to live with this horrible experience for the rest of her life,” said Brown. “Prostitution is not a victimless crime and sex trafficking is an incessant act of brutality and degradation. The sentence imposed today by the court punishes the defendant for his criminal acts.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger

Commuter van drivers protest Jamaica redevelopment

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

Members of the commuter van industry are infuriated about the redevelopment plans for Jamaica, which include an apartment complex being built by Sutphin Boulevard and a pedestrian plaza on Parsons Boulevard that will force them to operate at 153rd St. between Jamaica and Archer avenues.

The van drivers who were mainstays at Parsons Boulevard believe the 153rd Street spot is already crowded by other vehicle operators, they say it floods frequently and think they are being pushed out so that the area can be gentrified for outsiders who aren’t from the community.

Vehicle operators in the commuter van industry were so incensed about the move they held a rally April 11 against City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) outside his office at 172-12 Linden Blvd. in St. Albans for supporting the relocation, which is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan to eliminate congestion in the area.

“They are piling the vans on 153rd where vans already occupy space and there is absolutely no infrastructure there,” said Hector Ricketts, the president and CEO of the Commuter Van Association of New York. “They want to give the space to the farmers from upstate New York who don’t live in our community and don’t spend their money in our community.”

Ricketts was referring to the pop-up Down to Earth Farmers Market that runs twice a week from June to November and operates at Parsons Boulevard between Jamaica and Archer avenues on Fridays and 160th Street off of Jamaica Avenue on Saturdays. Four of the vendors are from upstate New York and one is from Long Island.

Miller disagreed with Ricketts’ sentiments and said the changes were made because of the mayor’s safety concerns, and said that three-quarters of the vendors who work on that corner in Parsons are from the area.

“When the mayor came in and began to implement his Vision Zero program, part of it was to create street safety zones, and these public plazas are in areas that had some of the highest accident rates,” said Miller. “Parsons Boulevard between Jamaica and Archer was one of the areas with the highest accident rates in the city and in the borough as well.”

A city Department of Transportation spokesman said the changes are from months-long feedback from community stakeholders of the Jamaica Now effort and as a response to accidents on Parsons, which has 1,000 pedestrians per hour on that block.

The Parsons corridor was designated a Vision Zero Priority Area because it ranks in the top 10 percent boroughwide with 70 crashes from 2012 to 2016. In those accidents 30 of those injuries involved pedestrians.

The alterations include a sidewalk extension to create additional space to Parsons. The DOT said that the one-block move to 153rd for the van drivers will be beneficial since there are three spaces for authorized van operations.

On April 19 the signage for the commuter van stops on Parsons were removed, new signs were installed on the east side of 153rd St. and planters that were on the east side of the boulevard were moved to the west side of the sidewalk. From April 23 to April 27 there will be replacements for the old markings for the sidewalk extension. From April 20 to May 4 there will be installations of more planters, and granite blocks will make way for a pedestrian space similar to the ones in Manhattan.

Ricketts said the move was ridiculous because there are 100 van operators in the southeast Queens area and they serve around 120,000 riders a day and to put them near an area that floods would be what is truly unsafe.

Miller said the van protesters are grasping at straws with the flood zone accusation, and according to FloodHelpNY.org, a flood mapping website, that part of downtown Jamaica is not a flood zone area.

Ricketts also thinks the mayor is lumping his safety concerns on legal van drivers when the real solution should be sending enforcement agents from the Taxi and Limousine Commission to remove the illegal van drivers who sometimes park at bus stops and block traffic at 153rd St. between Jamaica and Archer avenues.

“They want to pool us all together,” said Ricketts. “They have never drawn a distinction between legal van operators and the illegal van operators.”

Miller reiterated that the main concern will always be safety in the area.

“We cannot enjoy any of the enhancements or development going on if we are not safe. This is about safety,” said the councilman.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger