Updated 16 Oct, 2009
Things are tough in Sunset Park. A quarter of the South Brooklyn neighborhood’s residents live below the poverty line. Since August 31st, 5 men under 25 have been murdered, 4 in gang-related violence. At the 72nd Precinct’s Community Council on Tuesday, things got heated–about vans.
“Dollar Vans” are big business in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. For $2.50, they’ll take you to Manhattan. For $4, you can make it to Flushing. The growing Chinese community along 8th Ave depends upon this service daily. More than 60 licensed vans appear each morning to shuttle people through the city.
Many of those vans belong to Wai Yeung Wong. Yet the co-owner of J&HE Transportation Inc, told Stefanos Chen of The Brooklyn Ink he feels unlicensed and uninsured competition threatens his commuter van business. (You can find a list of companies with current licenses here. J&HE is listed, as is Sunset Service. Find a little about the history of “dollar vans” here).
Conflict over the vans goes beyond business battles. Some in the area complain that the vans park on residential side streets, blocking traffic and fire hydrants. The 72nd precinct has been in negotiations with the owners of the van companies, attempting to come to a compromise. It considered moving the large vehicles off 8th Avenue, where they blocked commercial and emergency traffic, priority number one.
“The owners of the commuter van companies are trying to reach out,” said Deputy Inspector Pintos. “They are trying to do the right thing.”
Because the Precinct acknowledges that the vans provide an important service, it has tried to work with the companies to strike a compromise. For now, police permit vans to set up shop on residential blocks along 51st, 53rd, and 59th Streets.
That didn’t do much to easy Mary Daly’s mind. She told the Community Council that in the past ten days, 40 vans have set up shop on her stretch of 57th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Her block was supposed not one of the agreed temporary stops.
“It was spreading,” Daly said of the vans’ illegal parking. “Now it’s permanent.”
The Precinct and the Community Council’s newest member, Danny Chen, hope to settle on a more permanent solution in a neighborhood where both the vans and parking spaces are a hot commodity.
“We’ve got to respect the businesses,” said Chen. “In the same way, the businesses have to respect the community.”
I’ve also created a map that shows the authorized and unauthorized parking spots of “Dollar Vans” in Sunset Park. Are there more? Leave a comment or send an email to let the Chron know what’s missing.