2014-10-15 / Front Page

Taxi Smart Cards Hot Topic At CB1 Meeting

By Thomas Cogan

At October’s Community Board 1 cabinet meeting there was considerable discussion about the Taxi Smart Card, a travel discount item for both the elderly and disabled.  For the past year it has been the basis of a pilot program in only two community board districts in the entire city, CB 1 being one of them.  City Councilman Costa Constantinides was expected to appear but had to be elsewhere, though an aide recited a schedule of his meetings that are concerned with participatory budgeting.  There were reports from Parks & Recreation, Socrates Sculpture Park and the Emergency Medical Service.  The last of them included news of the new EMS station under the Triboro Bridge and the current pace of emergency response time.

Frank McCrea of the Department for the Aging and Shain Anderson of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) had an update on the pilot program for the Taxi Smart Card.  This is a discount debit card being given a pilot test in CB 1 here and CB 18 in Brooklyn.  The elderly and disabled who register for it can get cards that provide $100 of taxi service for a payment of $12.50.  When that $100 runs low the card can be renewed for $12.50.  A cab, yellow or green, and car services that have credit and debit card readers can be summoned by phone or hailed from the street.  The pilot program, started in 2013, is in the process of being renewed.  It is operable only in CB 1 and CB 18 (which includes Flatlands and Canarsie)—though of course the aim is ultimately to make it citywide.

McCrea said that the taxicabs and car services are not greeting this program with unanimous approval.  Independent contractor drivers may balk at it too, though likely more in Brooklyn than in Queens.  He said that such resisters have to be persuaded that it’s really in their interest because it’s business for them.  Two CB1 women who have used the service and support it enthusiastically made suggestions at the meeting.  Ann Bruno said that when phoning for a ride, say you are using a debit card but say nothing about its being a city card, since that could be a turnoff on the receiving end.  Fran Luhmann-McDonald said to be determined.  When hailing from the street, get into the car, close the door and when the driver has started, announce that you’re paying by debit card.  If the car has a card reader, the driver in motion is less likely to say (a) that there is none or (b) that it’s not working. Farrington said the temporarily disabled are also eligible for the service, as she is, following hip replacement surgery.

Shain Anderson also announced that MOPD and the Department of Sanitation are sponsoring the NYC Winter Weather Access and Mobility Summit, an October 22 conference that will, according to MOPD literature, “focus on the steps that people with disabilities and their loved ones can take to ensure safe travel during the winter months.”  It takes place Wednesday, October 22 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Lighthouse Guild for the Blind, 111 East 59th St.  Register at www.nyc.gov/mopd or call 311.  For travel information, call the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 511 line.

Councilman Constantinides’s participatory budgeting meetings take place Wednesday, Oct. 22, 7:00 p.m. at P.S, 234, 30-15 29th St.; Monday, Oct. 27, 7:00 p.m. at P.S. 122, 21-21 Vernon Blvd.; and Wed., Oct. 29, 6:30 p.m., Astoria Community Center, 4-05 Astoria Blvd.  Debra Farrington of City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office said that participatory budgeting is popular with the progressive wing of the City Council, which includes Van Bramer and Constantinides, but is less popular with several other council members. 

Norman Chan of the Department of Parks & Recreation hailed two long-awaited achievements, the completion of the East River seawall at Queensbridge Park in July and renovation of Athens Square Park at 30th Street and 30th Avenue in Astoria in September.  At Athens, the plaza and stage were repaired but the skateboarding problem remains, Chan said.  Gates were built that might keep skateboarders out of the park at night, but they are seldom locked.  He added that trash-dumping is a bothersome occurrence at Athens Square, and also Dutch Kills Playground, 36th Avenue and Crescent Street.  The department’s Community Parks Initiative is also important to note:  35 renovation projects across the city, including Astoria Heights Playground, 30th Road and 46th Street, and Van Alst Playground, 14th Street and 30th Avenue.  Lucille Hartmann, Community 1’s district manager and moderator of the cabinet meeting, said attention was focused on the Astoria Heights Playground only after intense lobbying by residents of the nearby neighborhood, who wanted it repaired

The Socrates Sculpture Park report by Katie Denny-Horowitz concentrated on the Halloween Harvest Festival, which runs from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturday, October 25.  The four hours will feature several events for young persons, including costume-making, face painting, a reading of Japanese ghost stories and the annual canine costume contest.  Denny-Horowitz also wanted to publicize the Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition, which is a display of works by 15 young artists, spread over a part of the park extending to the East River.  The exhibition was opened in September and runs until March 15.

The Emergency Medical Service report was made by Captain Steve Warren, executive officer for the borough command of EMS.  He said a new home for the local EMS station has been found, replacing cramped quarters near Mt. Sinai Queens Hospital.  The new station is under the long approach to the Triboro Bridge, at Hoyt Avenue and Crescent Street.  Warren said that EMS is considered adequately responsive if its response time is eight minutes or under when dispatching either an ambulance or fire truck to the site of a medical emergency.  The borough’s EMS, however, has set its limit at seven minutes and lately has been clocking at six minutes, 27 seconds.  



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