Hello to all! I hope the frigid temperatures haven’t kept you down. January was a busy month for The Black Car Fund! The highlight was certainly partnering with the Independent Drivers Guild to distribute nearly 4,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits to drivers.

On January 26th, we were out with the folks from IDG at LaGuardia and JFK airports distributing kits that included Celltrion COVID-19 at-home tests, FreeBand hand sanitizer dispensers, COVID-19 vaccination card protectors and passenger seatbelt awareness stickers.

As I’m sure you know, access to at-home tests has been remarkably limited due to the rise of the omicron variant. While access will certainly become better in the coming weeks, we wanted to act now and make sure that we could get these tests into the hands of drivers. In addition to the tests that were distributed on the 26th, we are also working to distribute them to drivers outside of New York City. Some remaining kits will also be distributed by the IDG team when they visit the airports and at classes at the Black Car Safety Center.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t already requested them, The Black Car Fund has purchased a limited amount of N95 and surgical masks to distribute to Covered Drivers. Due to the limited supplies and high demand, we can only fulfill requests for 1 N95 mask and 1 surgical mask per driver at this time. We’re also distributing seatbelt stickers for drivers to comply with New York’s latest seat belt law requiring all TLC-licensed vehicles to display a notice reminding passengers to buckle up.

Additionally, we also have plastic vaccination card holders to protect your COVID-19 vaccine cards. In order to comply with the city’s vaccination mandate, drivers must have their vaccination cards on them at all times while operating a TLC-licensed vehicle. If you would like to request a pair of masks, a seatbelt sticker or a vaccination card holder, please email The Black Car Fund at marketingrequest@nybcf.org and give us your full name, mailing address, the base you work for, and which item(s) you would like and they will be mailed to you. Please allow 2-4 weeks for the items to arrive.

In January, we also learned that our Director of Operations, Dawn Sherman, is one of the 50 women being honored by City & State with their Above & Beyond Awards. These awards are given to women who exhibit exemplary leadership in their fields and have made important contributions to society. In the past, these awards have been given to women such as Governor Kathy Hochul, City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, former Manhattan Borough President and current City Councilmember Gale Brewer, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

As our Director of Operations, Dawn has worked tirelessly to ensure that every aspect of our day-to-day operations runs as effectively and efficiently as possible. With a career in public service spanning more than 20 years, she is driven by a passion for work that improves the lives of those around her. Once the pandemic started, she went above and beyond her role to lead efforts that directly impacted the drivers we cover. She oversaw the communication of critical safety and financial assistance information, as well as the distribution of over 20,000 PPE kits that included masks, gloves and sanitizer. The impact of her efforts has certainly been by anyone who has been helped by the critical safety net we provide. We are excited for her as she receives this very well-earned recognition.

Moving onto City news, last month a new Department of Transportation (DOT) rule went into effect that requires drivers and cyclists to come to a complete stop, rather than yield, for pedestrians at intersections that don’t have stop signs or traffic lights. You must remain stopped until the pedestrian has completed crossing and is no longer in the crosswalk. Mayor Adams also announced that enforcement on this would be increased and fines issued to drivers who do not comply. Please be aware of this change and the increased enforcement as the City is certainly trying everything they can do reduce pedestrian fatalities.

In addition to this change, the DOT also announced that it would be improving over 1,000 intersections throughout the city with improved traffic signals, raised crosswalks and other methods aimed at expanding pedestrian space and visibility.

Last month, there was also an interesting development on congestion pricing. As you might know, when the congestion pricing plan was passed by State legislators in 2019, there were three exemptions that were worked into it: emergency vehicles, vehicles carrying disabled persons, and for drivers who live inside the congestion zone and earn less than 60,000 per year. Since then, a lot of the discussion around congestion pricing has been about who else would be exempt from the charge. Obviously, everyone would like to get an exemption, but State Senator Leroy Comrie, who oversees the MTA’s committee, warned the MTA to not allow any more exemptions.

State law requires congestion pricing to raise a specific amount of money, so the more exemptions that are given, the higher the fees will be for everyone else. While it would be great if black cars could be exempt from the surcharge, the biggest challenge we could face would be a disparity of exemptions among the various sectors of the ground transportation industry. If no one is exempt then everyone is on the same playing field and the government won’t be picking winners and losers. Ultimately, fairness is better for everyone.

On a final note, don’t forget that if you’re a Covered Driver with an accepted Workers’ Compensation claim and have been receiving your indemnity payments by paper check, you can now receive them via Direct Deposit! If you would like to enroll in Direct Deposit, please visit www.nybcf.org/directdepositand sign up!

Also, don’t forget that The Black Car Fund offers you the opportunity to earn while you learn with our Enhanced New York State Defensive Driving Course and our BCF Wellness STEP class. As you know, the TLC requires its licensees to complete a defensive driving course once every three years. Instead of paying for it, you can take ours for FREE and even receive a $300 payment once every three years! You can also earn a one-time payment of $150 by completing our Wellness STEP class! You can sign up for both of these by visiting www.blackcarsafetyclasses.com. Also, keep an eye out for a new driver education class that we will be introducing! We look forward to announcing the details in the coming months!

Until next time!

Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira J. Goldstein is the Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund and Advisor to the Black Car Assistance Corp. (BCAC).

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