BOT, AAA iron out potential bumps in the road for fleet’s future
The Floral Park Board of Trustees meeting held on Tuesday, Jan. 7, opened with a public hearing to address AAA Taxi’s request for an extension of its franchise agreement with the Village of Floral Park, which runs through April 2013. The company has maintained a stalwart presence in town for more than 40 years and is hopeful to continue to service residents in the future.
In a public notice dated Jan. 25, AAA’s application was for a two-year extension, however, “Contrary to the public notice, we are looking for a three-year extension of the existing agreement through 2016,” explained Michael Angiulo, whose law firm represents AAA Taxi and its owner, the Vitello family. “AAA is in the midst of securing financing to update its fleet of vehicles, but the finance company wants a four-year franchise agreement to run concurrently with the financing terms, which is why AAA seeks to amend its application to request a three-year extension,” Angiulo said.
The attorney also addressed the issue of designated parking spots. Apparently, there are four spots designated for taxicab use near the Floral Park railroad station, and Angiulo asked that the board “consider that those spots be designated officially in the extension of the franchise agreement.” To that request, Trustee James Rhatigan referred to a section of the existing franchise agreement that specifies that taxicabs shall stand parked and stopped near the LIRR station only in spots designated for such purposes and that no taxicab shall park on Caroline Place or Atlantic Avenue. Rhatigan asked, “How you doing? Do you think your drivers are adhering to this section?”Michael Vitello, who with his father, Richard Sr., and brother Richard, owns AAA Taxi, replied, “I think we are.” Rhatigan commented that he commutes down Atlantic Avenue from work “and it does trouble me to see traffic is backed up,” as private drivers idle along Atlantic, waiting to pick up commuters, and “there’s either two or three [AAA] cars at metered spots along Atlantic, between Arps and Dalton’s … I’m not trying to be capricious or derogatory, but I think we could do better.” Vitello acknowledged Rhatigan’s concerns and said, “We can take care of that.”
Trustee Kevin Fitzgerald also brought up concerns about where AAA cars park, saying that he has, on occasion, received complaints from the director of the Floral Park Public Library that taxis are parked in spots on Caroline that are reserved for library patrons during hours that the library is open. Vitello assured the board that they would “speak to the drivers about that.”
Rhatigan referenced another phrase in the existing franchise agreement that addresses the fleet’s color and uniformity: “All taxicabs used by the franchise shall be painted uniformly in a white or blue color, except that the existing green, tan and black vehicles may continue to be used but when replaced shall be in a white or blue color.” The trustee questioned AAA car No. 30, which is a blue Scion, different from the other taxis in the fleet. Vitello explained that his company used to have an owner-operator program, which it has phased out. The Scion belongs to the only subcontractor AAA still has, who has worked with AAA for 25 or 30 years, Vitello said. He added that the fleet no longer has green, tan or black vehicles.
“The company plans to update its fleet with its pending financing, bringing in white vehicles with the requisite minimum 12-inch AAA logo lettering; the oldest cars will be from 2008, with the majority from 2009 and 2010,” Vitello said.
“It’s obviously in all our benefit to have newer, better cars,” Angiulo said, adding, “That’s why getting a three-year extension till 2013 is very important to us.”
Mayor Thomas Tweedy affirmed, after speaking to Floral Park Police Department Commissioner Stephen McAllister prior to the public hearing, that there are no complaints existing or pending for AAA.
“In fact, we have just the opposite. We hear an awful lot of good [about AAA] with what they’ve done for our restaurants, our taverns, but more importantly with our seniors, getting them to and from [where they need to be],” Tweedy said.
The mayor also acknowledged AAA’s staunch support of the Floral Park Little League and various Floral Park Indians programs, as well as its generosity to the community. The company recently donated more than $5,000 to the village for the purchase of 22 recycling receptacles – 11 to be used for bottles and cans, and 11 for newspapers. Additionally, AAA contributed funds for the 9/11 memorial that was erected outside Village Hall last fall.