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Transporters weigh in on rebuilt limousine ban

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FILE - State police officers at the site of a limousine crash that left 20 dead in Schoharie, Oct. 8, 2018. The son of the owner of a limousine company at the center of the investigation of the crash was arrested on Oct. 10, according to a law enforcement official. Nauman Hussain, the son of a Shahed Hussain, the owner of Prestige Limousine, was taken into custody by the state police.
January 17, 2019 10:06 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced comprehensive safety reforms for limousines and other large passenger vehicles to be included in the 2019 executive budget Tuesday.

His proposal also includes a ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines and their operation.

The reforms come in the wake of a crash involving a remanufactured stretch limousine killed 20 people in Schoharie County on Oct. 8, 2018, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

The vehicle failed an inspection last September and Prestige Limousine, the company that leased the ill-fated vehicle, kept it on the road despite repeated failed motor vehicle inspections.

“This crash was a horrific tragedy that shocked this state to its very core,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We are advancing reforms that will give aggressive new powers that will allow authorities to take dangerous vehicles off the roads without delay, hold unscrupulous businesses accountable and increase public safety in every corner of New York.”

LIMOUSINE COMPANIES REACT

Coxsackie Transport has one limousine in its fleet and most of the transportation it provides is chartered, owner Wayne Parks said. Parks supports the governor’s proposal.

“For the safety of a stretch vehicle, there should be as many restrictions as possible,” Parks said. “I would have to agree with Cuomo.”

Coxsackie Transport’s limousine was built in a factory with specific regulations, he said. Stretching the frame of a limousine should be done in a controlled setting, he added.

“It’s a big thing when you’re stretching a frame on a vehicle. It affects everything,” he said. “The problem with that limo [in Schoharie] was that it should have been DOT-inspected.”

The governor’s proposed ban will have an effect on Albany-based Premiere Transportation, which serves Columbia County. It punishes businesses that have stretch limousines approved by car manufacturers, owner David Brown said. The company has five limousines in its fleet.

“Why are we throwing out the baby with the bath water with these cars Ford already approved?” Brown said. “We’re kind of scratching our heads.”

The governor should have consulted with livery companies and the National Limousine Association on the proposed law, Brown said. All items attached to the budget, including this law, will pass along with the budget.

“We knew there would be some kind of consequence for what happened [in Schoharie]. We didn’t think there would be an overall ban,” he said. “I understand the concern, but I don’t think it’s being approached right.”

Brown anticipates the funeral business will be hit hard by this ban as well because stretch limousines are used in funerals, he said. Premiere owns five hearses.

“What are we supposed to do, not do funerals anymore?” Brown said. “It’s not just my concern. It’s people in the funeral business.”

Brown has reached out to elected officials at the state level including Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, to express his concerns about the law, Brown said. There is a chance it will be modified, Brown added.

“Everybody’s trying to digest the law,” he said. “They’re trying to see what the real repercussions are.”

The ban won’t have an effect on CCar Services, of Coxsackie, which doesn’t have stretch limousines, but owner Bob Jump said all livery companies including Lyft and Uber need to be regulated.

“Some of the regulations and stuff are going to be harder and tougher,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty interesting.”

Countryside Car Service, of Hillsdale, won’t be affected by the ban because owner Frank Camacho finds stretch limousine services unpopular in the area. Countryside focuses on being a concierge service for wealthy residents.

“It’s almost a dead thing,” he said. “It’s never been strong here.”

But Camacho is concerned about stretch limousines and a lack of maintenance.

“It’s been dangerous for a long time,” he said.

WILL IT AFFECT THE BIG DAY?

Business won’t be affected by a ban, according to the owners of wedding venues in the Twin Counties.

Large upscale weddings don’t occur often in Catskill and the ban won’t have much impact on Joe’s Garage on Main Street in the village, co-owner Michael Moy said. He supports the regulations proposed by the governor.

“They’re going to use regular limousines, which won’t be a big deal,” Moy said. “The people that do smaller weddings in Catskill aren’t typically having large limousines and fancy parties.”

Anthony’s Banquet Hall recently booked two weddings and owner Anthony Gjergji doesn’t foresee the new regulations, which he supports, having a negative effect on business, he said.

“I can’t see where a limousine company is going to make new rules to prevent the wedding from happening,” Gjergji said. “I’m happy about the fact that they’re now going to be checking those things. It’s too bad 20 people had to die to do that.”

During the 28 weddings that took place at the Barn at Liberty Farms in Ghent, Venue Coordinator Blanche Mackey doesn’t recall seeing many stretch limousines.

“We have very few stretch limousines that come to our venue,” she said. “I do not think that would impact us in any way.”