Bay Ridge

Gentile says feds should allow disabled veterans to use HOV lanes

Council resolution calls for special license plates to be issued

November 12, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Vincent Gentile (at podium) and several of his colleagues held a press conference at City Hall to call for federal approval of a policy to allow disabled veterans to use HOV lanes on highways at all times. City Council photo by William Alatriste
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Disabled war veterans should be permitted to drive in High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on the city’s highways, even if they are traveling alone, according to Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who is mounting an effort to change the rules of the road.

Normally, HOV lanes on the Gowanus Expressway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and other highways are reserved for vehicles with three or more occupants.

Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) introduced a resolution in the council on Nov. 10 calling on congress to approve the HOV change. It would take federal legislation to change an HOV designation because New York receives transportation funds from Washington D.C., Gentile said. If the city made the change on its own, it could risk losing millions of federal transportation dollars, the councilmember said.

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“Access to services, especially much needed medical care at the VA hospital, should be as expedient as possible. However, due to federal regulations, even though New York City has the authority to enforce rules on HOV lanes, the city risks funding cuts to roads if they extend this courtesy,” Gentile said.

Specifically, Gentile’s resolution calls on Congress to pass legislation allowing states and localities to grant disabled veterans access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes. 

Under the plan, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles would issue special license plates to disabled veterans.

“The men and women who sacrificed so much in order to protect our country should not have to struggle when trying to get from point A to point B. Allowing disabled veterans to use our HOV lanes would be a very simple courtesy to extend to these undisputed heroes,” Gentile said at a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Monday.

Frank Cammallere, post commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #7868 in Dyker Heights, said he and his members wholeheartedly support the measure. “It’s a good idea. It’s the least they can do for our disabled veterans,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Veterans have had to put up with a lot. The whole VA mess, where our veterans couldn’t even get decent medical care, was a disgrace. At least let them use the HOV lane.”

Allowing solo drivers to use the HOV lane would make life a little easier for disabled veterans, Cammallere said. “A lot of them, when they go to the doctor, don’t have anybody else in the car with them,” he said.

Gentile has also organized a “Disabled Veterans HOV Lane Access Action Plan” to get his constituents involved in the cause. He is asking veterans and advocacy groups to contact U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) to voice their support for giving disabled veterans HOV lane access without funding cuts.

Nick Iacono, a spokesman for Grimm, said the congressman is supportive of Gentile’s idea. “Congressman Grimm applauded Councilman Gentile’s proposal and said that his office would look into legislation that would make the idea feasible for the city’s disabled veterans,” he told the Eagle.

***UPDATED***

Article was updated to include comment from U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm’s spokesman.

 

 


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