Brooklynites gathered at the auditorium of Holy Angels Academy, 337 74th Street, on Wednesday, August 27 for the Access-A-Ride (AAR) forum hosted by Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis.
The event featured a large turnout of individuals who were concerned about the service. They were able to discuss both problems and solutions. The panel — including Malliotakis, State Senator Marty Golden, and AAR Vice President Thomas Charles among others — listened to the individual dilemmas as well as explained the process and future plans for the service.
“Here in Bay Ridge, we have the largest senior citizen population in the city of New York,” Malliotakis explained. “Issues like Access-A-Ride are very important to residents here. We want to know how to improve this service and a way to do that is by getting comments from you, hearing about your experiences in order to make it a better, more efficient service.”
Charles began the forum by explaining the latest developments for AAR. “Many of our customers expressed a desire to be called just before the vehicle arrives, so we introduced a system that makes phone calls to customers that is connected to the GPS of the vehicle,” he said. In addition, Charles mentioned the service’s new call center feature that allows transactions to be made over the phone without speaking to an agent, as well as its new vehicles. “We began introducing a new vehicle called the MV1. It’s slightly smaller than our large vans and has a ramp.”
The floor was then opened to attendees to discuss their AAR struggles, including Juanita Still, who was recently denied the service. “I’ve had Access-a-Ride for five years. When I went to be recertified, I got turned down. I appealed three times after that. I got my letter two days ago and got turned down again,” she said. “I have arthritis throughout my whole body. I’ve had bad surgeries, including on my knees. They tell me that my documentation is not enough for me to continue to have Access-A-Ride.”
“The eligibility decision is probably one of the more difficult parts for our applicants to understand. It’s a case-by-case eligibility determination,” Charles said. “Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are very specific regulations about eligibility criteria. This is a transportation decision, not a medical decision. It’s for our medical professionals at our assessment centers to determine whether you have functional capability to take a bus or subway.”
An Access a Ride representative on hand at the forum helped each individual, including Still, with their problems to see how they could best be assisted going forward.
Another issue addressed was late-arriving rides. “If a vehicle is not arriving, dial 5 on the phone menu, and you will be offered a number of options. Either we have a vehicle nearby pick you up or give you a taxi authorization or have a car service pick you up and take you back to your destination,” said Charles.
This is the beginning of the discussion, not the end, Malliotakis stressed.
“If you have any more thoughts or if you know somebody who couldn’t attend, please contact my office or send us an email explaining your experience so we can make sure that all this is being taken into account as we go forward,” said Malliotakis.