A Chinatown bus company has claimed that the New York transportation department has repeatedly denied its bus stop permit request each year, affecting millions of its “minority” riders.
The allegation, filed by bus operator Yep Tour, Inc. in a federal lawsuit against the city, further claimed that the same permits have been granted to other bus companies that provide service to the Hamptons. Defendants named in the suit are the Department of Transportation, the Department of Finance and NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito.
DNAinfo reports that the carrier claims that the agency has been denying its permit because it operates out of Chinatown and serves mainly minority riders. The company is demanding $1 million in damages.
“Defendants have arbitrarily and purposely denied plaintiff a bus stop on the basis that plaintiff operates from a minority neighborhood and more than 80% of plaintiff’s clientele are minorities,” court documents read.
Yep claimed that it has repeatedly applied for the bus stop locations in Chinatown, but has consistently been declined. Several buses from the operator were recently confiscated for operating without a permit at Pike Street and East Broadway.
Yep’s lawyers are citing the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment and the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. They describe the company as, “a minority owned business that brings over a million people into the city each year” and that it “has a tremendous impact on the New York City economy.”
According to the accompanying email exchanges between Department of Transportation and Yep representatives, the city refused because the locations were already in use and couldn’t handle more traffic.
Despite the non-issuance of the permit, the company continued to operate in the “restricted” areas.
“Defendant continues to profit from the numerous fines levied against the plaintiff, in excess of $500,000, for non-compliance with the very ‘bus stop’ law for which it has continuously denied plaintiff’s applications,” the lawsuit read.
Currently, Yep has one approved bus stop in Bay Ridge at 6010 Eighth Ave., while the Hampton Jitney has more than 40 bus stop locations throughout the boroughs, the lawsuit wrote in comparison.
The recent aggressive crackdown against the company has resulted in around $300,000 in fines accrued in January alone for two confiscated buses. Another bus would be caught weeks later, plus three more in the following month.
As part of a settlement agreement, the city has announced it is willing to allow a temporary six-month permit for Yep Tour Inc. to let its buses operate at Pike Street and East Broadway. The parties have also agreed to a payment plan on the last confiscated bus.
“It’s better to have them with a bus stop permit, a legal stop so they have stipulations,” Karlin Chan, a commuter in the area was quoted as saying. “It’s the lesser of two evils, basically. It’s safer for the pedestrians, instead of playing the cat and mouse game.”
He argued that giving Yep a permit would allow it to operate legally.