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North Hempstead OKs free, discounted taxi rides for disabled

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth speaks with

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth speaks with Disability Advisory Committee member Larry Greenstein, left, and his son Kevin Greenstein, who is disabled, during a media event at Clinton G. Martin Park to promote a new transport service on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

North Hempstead town officials are seeking to make independent living easier by offering free and discounted taxi rides for residents with disabilities.

The town board on Tuesday voted 7-0 in favor of expanding the Project Independence transportation program that provides rides for senior citizens aged 60 and older. Now disabled residents can also participate in the program.

“We came together to try to see what we could do to make life better to enable those with disabilities to lead an independent a life as possible,” Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a Wednesday interview. Transportation “was absolutely the greatest need,” she said.

Starting in January, disabled residents 21 years old and older will qualify for free taxi rides to grocery stores and discounted taxi rides for medical appointments. Because the taxis are not wheelchair accessible, the town’s service is limited to disabled people with some mobility who are able to ride in a taxi and travel with a foldable wheelchair or walker. The town has not discussed purchasing a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, Bosworth said.

The new service is the result of a year of work by the town’s Disability Advisory Committee, which is composed of 16 members, some of whom are disabled or have disabled children.

Larry Greenstein, a committee member and Port Washington resident, said he hoped to help make the town of North Hempstead one of the best places for disabled people such as his son Kevin, who is 24.

“Isolating them and not letting them reach their full potential is a shame for them and it’s a shame for the community because they do have so much to offer,” said Greenstein, 62. Right now, aides or family members take turns driving his son.

Expanding Project Independence to include the disabled was a natural solution, said Jackie Shenkman, 69, a Great Neck resident and committee member with a daughter, 41, who is disabled.

Both the disabled and seniors have similar needs to remain in their own homes and maintain their independence. Transportation access is essential to successfully living within a community, participating in civic life and for self-empowerment, Shenkman said.

Residents can reserve a taxi trip at least one day in advance by calling 311. Registration with the program requires prior certification with Nassau’s Able-Ride or Access-A-Ride, New York City’s paratransit system.

Project Independence’s ride program, which was created in 2009 to help seniors age in place, is funded through a state transportation grant. Last year, the town was awarded $1 million over three years for the program. There are now more than 10,000 senior residents registered with Project Independence, and in October, North Hempstead surpassed 100,000 taxi trips, said town spokeswoman Carole Trottere.

“More independence, that’s the bottom line,” Shenkman said. “Not only for seniors, but people with disabilities, regardless of age.”

PROJECT INDEPENDENCE

  • Open to residents only.
  • Registration requires a copy or picture of an Able-ride or Access-A-Ride card. A letter showing acceptance can also be used.
  • To reserve a ride, residents call 311 or 516-869-6311, at least one day before the appointment.
  • Daily discounted service will be available for medical appointments. Free twice-weekly appointments for grocery store shopping will be offered.
  • Participants must be able to ride in a taxi, and travel with a folding wheelchair or walker.

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