After 17 years of serving Staten Island's disabled community a local company is losing its transportation contract with the city. NY1's Bree Driscoll filed the following story.
Richard Salomone's office is covered with awards from local organizations honoring him for his work with the disabled community. He has been running RJR Paratransit for the last 17 years. The Dongan Hills Company is the main provider for Access-A-Ride services on Staten Island aiding more than 25,000 residents a month.
"We have a reputation of being the safest provider of all the Access-A-Ride carriers for all these years," said Salomone.
Despite RJR's track record, the New York City Transit Authority recently decided to award the Staten Island Access-A-Ride contract to a national company, MV Transportation, when the current contract expires in December.
Salomone says he worries that a new transportation provider with less experience on Staten Island will not be able to provide the same quality of service that his company does.
"We have been doing it for such a long time that my people have just become so accustomed and trained to know that area, know new streets, know new developments," said Salomone.
Elected officials say MV transportation does not currently have a facility, fleet or employees on the island. They say the company was given the contract because it put in a lower bid. But they worry what level of quality will come with that lower price.
"We are not moving boxes here. We are moving either developmentally-disabled children here or critically-ill adults who depend upon service that is timely and dependable," said State Senator Diane Savino.
Some of the Staten Island agencies that rely on Access-A-Ride services are concerned as well.
"We are really a different community and RJR has learned this community. They have lived here. They have grown up here with all of us and they certainly know the community very well. They know the streets; they know the people," said Alzheimer's Foundation Executive Director Gladys Schweiger.
Salomone says if the Transit Authority does not reconsider its contract he will have to close up shop leaving his 230 local employees without jobs.
In response, Transit Authority officials released a statement saying:
"The firm chosen to provide service to Staten Island is an experienced nationwide provider of Paratransit service and a current contractor with NYC Transit, and was approximately 25 percent lower in price than RJR. This will result in savings of multi-millions of dollars over the life of the contract, which in light of our current financial situation is of great importance to NYC Transit."