Brooklyn Van Driver Wins Battle With N.Y. City Council But War Over Economic Liberty is Not Over

John Kramer
John Kramer · August 5, 1997

Washington, D.C. ­ Responding to a groundswell of support from commuter van riders, the general public and the media, the New York City Council today authorized the first commuter van line in Brooklyn. Vincent Cummins’ Brooklyn Van line received authority to operate 20 vans to transport riders throughout the borough.

Cummins prevailed after having his application previously rejected three times before by the Council. Following the last rejection, he became a national symbol of inner city entrepreneurship frustrated by arbitrary and unreasonable laws. The Institute for Justice represents Cummins and other commuter van operators seeking to provide safe, efficient, affordable transportation in their communities. The Institute waged an intensive media and public education campaign on behalf of Vincent Cummins and commuter vans.

But the battle is not over. The law that regulates commuter vans makes it illegal even for authorized vans to provide the service they and their customers desire: picking up passengers where they find them and taking them where the passengers want to go. Until that law is struck down, as a lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice seeks to do, van operators will remains on the margins of the economy.

“Today Vincent Cummins received a long overdue recognition that he should not be forced to operate in the underground economy,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. “But the laws of New York still make it illegal for Vincent Cummins and other van operators to compete with the public bus monopoly. Until that becomes possible, the full potential of vans will remain unfulfilled and the taxpayers of New York will continue to subsidize a massive, inefficient public bus system.”

“Vincent Cummins has battled for seven years to fulfill his American Dream,” said Institute for Justice Staff Attorney Nicole Garnett. “His battle continues, and will continue, as long as his company and others are prevented by arbitrary and irrational laws from providing the safe and efficient transportation service demanded by the riding public.”