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September 2008

I am sure that many of you reading this column have already heard the sad news, but for those of you who have not, I am sorry to announce the passing of former City Councilman and former TLC Commission member Stanley E. Michels, following a valiant two-year long battle with cancer.  Very few individuals could boast the stellar career in public service that Stanley accomplished, which included 24 years of representing upper Manhattan in the New York City Council.  Stanley was re-elected to the Council no less than seven times, which was no mean feat considering the fact that his district was reapportioned during his tenure.

Stanley was both the chairman and the senior member of the Council's Manhattan delegation, which meant that he was front and center in complex budget negotiations with Council leadership.  His expertise and his respected position would result in tens of millions of dollars for parks restoration over the course of his years in the Council, a passion that was recognized most recently on July 24th when the main walkway of Fort Tryon Park was named Stan Michels Promenade.  Though it was to be his last appearance in the public eye, I am grateful that he was able to attend the naming ceremony and know how much he was valued by those whose lives he touched.

Stanley's two-year tenure as a TLC Commission Member several years ago was a brief one as such things go, though he made a tremendous impression on all of us with whom he worked.  He was intensely interested in the issues that came before the TLC, and made it known that he wished to be closely involved in agency projects and initiatives.  I think what may have touched people the most during his time with us was how his intelligence and his ability to grasp complex issues was tempered by a powerful compassion and a deep humility.  He truly cared about people, and it was effortlessly evident.

Our deepest condolences to his wife of 48 years, Molly - a truly special person in her own right - their daughters, Judge Shari Michels and Karen Michels, who is a teacher; and their son, Jeffrey, a successful attorney.

On to happier matters, I am pleased to note that the TLC's Accessible Dispatch Program continues to progress.  Many participating drivers have been trained on the program's operational processes, and many volunteer "testers" have successfully arranged rides over the course of the last several months, and the system is up and running - accepting calls to 311 from people who use wheelchairs and desire taxicab service.  After ensuring that the system is working well during the "soft launch" period that we are currently in - we will conduct public outreach and a complete rollout in the future.  It is important to note that this two (2) year demonstration project is a pilot program, and that changes can be made to modify various aspects if needed.  Meanwhile, I am pleased and proud that the TLC has created a program that provides service where none existed before, and adds to the transportation options available to people with disabilities.  It is not every day that you get to add a totally new element to one of the most comprehensive transportation systems in the world!

I am also pleased to mention that we have continued to stay in touch with auto manufacturers and that our confidence in the availability of vehicles capable of complying with our new fuel efficiency standards remains high.  We are also aware that many taxi operators have heeded our encouragement to plan ahead and have wisely ordered their hybrid-electric vehicles well in advance to ensure a steady and ample supply.  Considering the interest that has been demonstrated in this program by other major taxi towns, a number of which have already either passed similar ordinances or are in various planning stages of doing so, I must say that my enthusiasm has only grown as we approach the October 1 effective date.

Before I close this column, I just want to send my best wishes to Enois Malbranche, a true gentleman who was the victim of a heinous crime a number of weeks ago.  Despite the tragic loss of his wife only four months ago, and the grievous injuries he suffered at the hands of a trio of young thugs, Mr. Malbranche bears no bitterness.  I had a chance to speak with him recently, and was truly impressed by his softspoken grace.  It will be a difficult road ahead for Mr. Malbranche, and we hope to be able to assist him in the coming months.

Until next month, be well……….


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