BY JAMES FARRELL
A free transportation program for seniors is expanding to serve the entire borough of Queens.
The program will offer free car service from the company Four Two’s to medical appointments for seniors in all of Queens. Funding will be provided from a $10,000 grant awarded to the senior care organization Selfhelp Community Services by the City Council’s Queens delegation.
The program will start on Jan. 2. To utilize the car service, seniors should contact the Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center at (718) 224-7888 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to schedule their rides. Rides are limited to two long distance or four local trips a month per person. The service can only be used for medical appointments.
The program first launched in April 2017 out of the Clearview Senior Center, but was restricted to residents of the 19th City Council District, which is often considered a public transportation “desert,” due to a lack of subway lines and other reliable options. Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who represents that district, first provided funding for the program. The service depleted its funds by the summer and was relaunched for the area in November before the latest expansion, which was formally announced yesterday.
“When I launched this program, I hoped that it would grow and expand beyond just northeast Queens, and now that is starting to become a reality,” Vallone said. “Seniors in our city, many of who live on fixed incomes, are already faced with enough hardships such as rising property taxes, costs of living and stagnant funding for critical services. The last thing they should have to worry about is how they’re going to get to the doctor.”
The program, however, is only a pilot program and will conclude when the grant money is depleted. How long that could be is unclear—when the program debuted in late April as a pilot with four times the funding and serving only seniors in the 19th Council District, it lasted into June. But that program also covered rides to cultural sites, senior centers and shopping centers.
“It’s tough to say how long the funding will last, but limiting rides to two long distance or four local rides per senior per month will definitely help extend the length of time the program lasts,” said Vallone spokesman Lionel Morales in an email. “We will also certainly work with the Queens delegation to continue funding this expansion in the future.”
The November relaunch of the program for seniors in Vallone’s district, which received $50,000, is still ongoing, Morales confirmed. That bout of funding only applied to medical appointments.
At the Queens Interagency Council on Aging Community Meeting, where the expansion was announced, Vallone also announced an additional $15,000 grant for Selfhelp’s Virtual Senior Center program. The program allows seniors to interact with other seniors from home via technology, such as interactive digital classes and exercise programming.
“Our transportation program, in partnership with Four Two’s, will help address one of he most significant challenges faced by older residents of Queens—the lack of accessible and reliable transportation in parts of our city,” said Sandy Myers, vice president of external relations and communications at Selfhelp. “Further, our Virtual Senior Center will bring connections, learning opportunities and a link to the digital world through live and interactive classes on our platform.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.