After Transportation Cut, Queens Senior Centers Worry for Health of Members Left at Home

By Celia Bernhardt |

Allen AME’s center in South Ozone Park. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

“You go to some centers, it’s either bingo all day long or whatever. We’re not like that here,” member Donna Johnson says of Allen AME’s senior center on Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park.

On a Monday morning at the center, music from a radio spills out into the hallway. While seniors play pool in one room, they follow along with an exercise video in another. Members say that puzzles, jewelry making, sewing, and hot meals are just a few of the other benefits they can rely on at the center. 

“We like to keep active. Most of the people here are retired people — you worked all your life, you want to come out and socialize with other people,” Johnson says. 

But in recent months, at least 10 seniors in the lively community have been noticeably missing. Johnson says these members had been reliant on rides from Cathay, a transportation provider that abruptly reduced its services two months ago. 

A quiet change in a contract and an apparent breakdown in communication has left approximately 100 seniors without rides to and from Older Adult Centers in Southeast Queens. Now, seniors and staff alike say they’re worried that those who can no longer make it to the centers could suffer cognitive and physical decline. 

“Some people were getting early signs of dementia,” Veronica Ralph-Munro, a member the Rockaway Boulevard center, said. “That’s why people who knew them wanted them to come out…they’re gonna decline more because they’re stuck in a house.”

A bullet point and budget shortfall 

Cathay Express Transportation, contracted by the city’s Department for the Aging, announced a sudden reduction in the services at the end of last year for senior centers including Allen AME and Alpha Phi Alpha. While rides to and from medical appointments and errands are still available through the provider, trips between senior centers and homes — which scores of seniors had relied on — are not. 

THE CITY reported last Thursday that the change can be attributed in part to a bullet point in an addendum to a request for proposal. In previous years, regular rides between centers and seniors’ homes were a standard duty for transportation contractors assigned to serve OACs in a given region. The addendum, however, stated that such rides were “not the intent” of the program. “Standalone” rides to medical appointments and errands, or group day trips for senior centers, were to be the focus. 

Those were the terms of a service that Cathay began providing in July 2023. But for the first six months of the contract, things seemed to be operating as they always had for Allen AME and Alpha Phi Alpha. 

Alpha Phi Alpha Director Melissa Marcus said that Cathay sent flyers detailing their services at the beginning of the term. The flyers didn’t mention home-to-center transport one way or another, citing only standalone rides. Still, she said, Cathay didn’t hesitate to offer those rides when asked. 

“We called them about doing pickups…Didn’t have a problem,” Marcus said. “Different days, different times, they were very good with scheduling everything.”

Three months into the contract, Cathay requested that the list of Alphi Phi Alpha seniors receiving daily rides be reduced from 40 to 20, and that seniors reimburse Cathay for rides they had taken over the previous three months. Marcus said she complied with the first request, but flatly refused the latter, offering to brainstorm other solutions with Cathay. 

The next indication that something had gone wrong was the massive service reduction itself. 

Marcus said she received three phone calls in the course of one Friday afternoon before Christmas: the first stating that home-to-center services were ending, the second stating that the first call had been a misunderstanding, and the third reiterating the message of the first call. 

Executive Director of Allen AME Community Non-Profit Programs Donna Atmore-Dolly, meanwhile, received an email on January 5 titled “Dept. of Aging Budget Constraints.” 

“We regret to inform you that due to budgetary constraints imposed by the Department of Aging, we are currently experiencing limitations in accommodating trips for our senior members,” the email read. “Despite our meticulous planning to ensure adequate funding throughout the year, we have unfortunately reached the end of our budget.”

Cathay did not respond to requests for comment from the Queens Ledger.  

DFTA representative Gregory Rose, in an email to the Queens Ledger, said that the amount of money in Cathay’s rate-based contract had been running out. “To make sure they could still provide the service as stated in the RFP, we discouraged use of travel to and from older adult facilities through Cathay and encouraged them to use alternative modes of transportation,” Rose wrote. 

“I just stay in my house” 

Johnson, Ralph-Munro, and multiple others agreed that at least 10 members had stopped coming in due to the lack of transportation. Still more have reduced the number of days per week they come in. 

“We miss their company. They’re important when we’re having discussions,” Ralph-Munro said.  

Program Manager Sabrina Marson agreed that the center’s numbers are lower because of the change, adding that the cold weather worsens matters for seniors facing the prospect of waiting outside for less-reliable transit options like city buses. 

Marcus reported similar numbers, estimating that 10 seniors at Alpha Phi Alpha have stopped showing up altogether. She shares the concerns of Allen AME seniors about mental decline. 

“I get a lot of seniors who tell me, ‘Thank you for providing these services because it’s helping me live longer,’” Marcus said. “So you kind of think when they’re not having the services, they’re deteriorating.”

Left to right: Donna, Evonne, Shirley, Veronica. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

The situation reminds Rockaway Boulevard member Evonne Valere of dark times in recent years. She attributes the death of her peers during the Covid-19 lockdown to the social isolation of staying at home. 

“So many people died during the pandemic because we couldn’t come out,” Valere said. 

Patricia Thomas has had a particularly difficult time getting to the Rockaway Boulevard center. She lives in Rosedale, far away from most other members, and often has to use Access-a-Ride — or, as she calls it, ‘stress-a-ride.’ On Monday morning, Thomas said, she waited an additional 20 minutes for a van to arrive after being told over the phone it would pick her up by 8:05. Previous commutes have been worse; Thomas says she was once driven to Far Rockaway after asking to go to the center.

“I get to the point when I get aggravated I just stay in my house,” Thomas said. 

What’s left

Both seniors and staff at Rockaway Boulevard said on Monday that they had not been aware that they were still able to request standalone rides — for group shopping trips from the center, doctor’s appointments, errands, and more — from Cathay. 

“No one had told us that yet, to be honest with you. This is my first time hearing that,” Marson, who began working at the center in January after Cathay’s service reduction, said. 

Meanwhile, Marcus reported receiving multiple calls from Cathay in the past two weeks reminding her that such rides were available. 

While standalone rides could be helpful, Marson says, the recurring daily rides to and from centers are the ones that really count. 

“It’s the daily ones that cost them more money,” she said. “You want to socialize with your friends, you want to come to the center and have fun, but you can’t come all the time because you can’t afford it.”

Members at Rockaway Boulevard agreed that even Access-a-Ride’s cost could add up to be a burden on seniors living on a fixed income. 

“Hopefully we can get our transportation, because it’s very important for us,” Rockaway Boulevard member Shirley Phillips said. “We need transportation. We need to come in and communicate with other seniors.” 

Evening of Fine Food Raises $160K for QCP

By Celia Bernhardt |

Over 600 Queens residents came out on Feb. 27 to celebrate the Queens Center for Progress’s 28th annual Evening of Fine Food. 

Hosted at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows, the evening featured scores of local restaurants, caterers, bakeries and more, each with their own booth dolling out samples throughout the night. Attendees could also take part in a Silent Auction, casino games, and a photo booth. 

The night brought in over $160,000 to support QCP’s work of assisting individuals with developmental disabilities in leading more independent lives. 

QCP highlighted two “Chefs of the Year” who have made a difference and impact in their  community. Frank J. Quatela, Owner and Principal Architect at Frank J. Quatela Architect, P.C., and Hersh K. Parekh, Esq., Deputy Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey received the honors. The two served their community in a different way for the event, cooking up a family specialty to serve alongside other vendors. 

The Claire Shulman “Spirit of Community” award,, was presented to Lara Gregory, Esq., Queens Community Leader, QCP Board Member, and Principal Attorney at Lara Gregory and Associates.

“When we look for Chefs of the Year, we look for people who are engaged in the community, who have a lot of friends in the community and great contacts of the community, which helps us out in terms of raising money, of course,”  Wendy Phaff Gennaro, director of development at QCP, said. “But we’ve always focused on folks in Queens who make a difference in their personal and professional lives with people around them… then we started the Claire Shulman award about three years ago, and that is similar to the Chefs of the Year, but really just a merit based award for people who really are out there every day volunteering — sometimes it’s food related, sometimes it’s not — but people who really are out there giving time and their services to the community.”

Phaff Gennaro has helped organize the past fifteen Evenings of Fine Food. Still, she says, “it’s never old hat.”

“The word ‘elated’ came to mind this year,” Phaff Gennaro said. “We raised so much money, and when I look around the room, and I see people enjoying themselves and having a good time…it just makes me feel really good.”

Jiha again using the budget as a political weapon

In a hours-long budget meeting with councilmembers Monday, Adams’ budget director, Jacques Jiha, made some sweeping statements about the city’s bottom line.

The headlines from that meeting this week focused on Jiha’s assessment that closing Rikers Island jail by 2027, as mandated by law, is “not going to happen.” In his testimony on the city’s budget, Jiha claimed that the mandate to close Rikers and make way for borough-based jails throughout the city was interfering with his ability to provide space in the budget for popular infrastructure plans and city services. The comptroller disagrees with that assessment. Wait a minute, haven’t we heard this before?

Oh! That’s right! This fall, Jiha told us a $6.5 billion deficit, largely caused by asylum seekers, was responsible for closing library services and slashing education spending — only to quietly correct the record when discovering the city actually has a $2.8 billion surplus. In the same meeting Monday, Jiha told city council that the Biden administration has not delivered federal funding promised to the city when in fact, according to a federal official, it is the mayor’s office dragging its feet on the necessary paperwork holding up the money.

Jail reform and asylum seekers are easy scapegoats for austerity concerns — especially when you imagine billions of dollars in budget deficits to fuel it. We all know Adams is not a fan of the Rikers closure, he has publicly lambasted the plan and cast doubt on the jail’s documented inhumane and deadly conditions. But the law is the law and the mayor has a mandate to follow through on his duties, regardless of his feelings on the matter.

As for Jiha, we advise he take another stab at his assessment of the budget now that he’s got almost $10 billion more that we thought on hand and, in the words of his boss:

“Stay focused. No distractions. And grind.”

Electeds Need to Take Action to Protect Retail Workers

On Tuesday, retail workers, members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and allies rallied in Albany to push for the passage of the Retail Worker Safety Act. The bill, introduced by Sen. Jessica Ramos of Jackson Heights, seeks to protect workers from violent and dangerous incidents at retail stores.

Created in response to heightened rates of violence in stores across New York City and State since the pandemic — ranging from verbal harassment to threats to racially motivated assaults to shootings — the bill would create sensible measures to keep the workers who keep our city running every day safe. 

Retail employers with 10 employees or more would be required to create workplace violence prevention programs, including simple measures such as improving lighting, employee training, educating workers on de-escalation tactics and establishing emergency procedures, such as during active shooter drills. Employers would also be required to document any incidents of workplace violence and report them to a public database. Additionally, larger chain retail stores (those with 50 or more workers nationwide) would have to install panic buttons and some would be required to hire security guards.

As conversations of quality of life crime and shoplifting dominate political talking points, it’s time for politicians to take real action to support those most immediately affected by these incidents. The NYPD is not a private security force for large retail corporations and cannot be expected to operate as taxpayer-funded guards for giant chain retailers. Those employers need to start putting up the resources to take the most basic measures necessary to keep their employees safe in the workplace. It’s common sense, Albany needs to pass the Retail Worker Safety Act now!

A Planned Rego Park Shelter is Drawing Detractors From Nearby and Faraway Neighborhoods

By Celia Bernhardt |

Approximately 80 protesters gathered outside the Wyndham Hotel at 61-18 93rd St. on Feb. 18 to rally against the conversion of the hotel to a men’s homeless shelter. Two weeks earlier, on Feb. 4, a crowd came out to protest the same issue. 

The hotel sits just around the corner from where the Long Island Expressway and Queens Boulevard cross. 

Speeches by Queens residents and political figures at the most recent rally were punctuated by chants of “No more shelters!” Speakers stood in the back of a pickup truck in front of a backdrop of protest signs pasted to the hotel’s wall, one rally leader waving a large American flag. 

The rally was emceed by District Leader Hiram Monserrate, former city council member and state senator. Monserrate was expelled from the Senate in 2010 after being charged with assault, and later served 21 months in federal prison for a separate case of fraud. The East Elmhurst Corona Alliance hosted the event, along Rego Park United — an ad-hoc group of local residents collaborating with Monserrate and the Alliance, according to Rego Park resident and speaker at the rally Peter Kefalas.

A Rego Park resident named Stephanie who introduced herself as “Sunshine” said to the crowd that the shelter would be a disaster. 

“They claim they care. They do not. They are just dumping these homeless people here, there, and everywhere,” she said to the crowd. “They are profiting from these people’s trauma.”

Sheryl Fetik, a Rego Park resident and representative of Queens Community & Civic Alliance, urged protesters to sign online petitions against the shelter and talked about possible next steps while addressing the crowd.

“We may very well need to hire a lawyer and go to court,” Fetik said. “We may need to raise money to go to court.”

Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Community Board 6, which represents Rego Park, was first informed by the city’s Department of Social Services about the shelter conversion in October 2023. After communicating back and forth about the issue, DSS made the decision official at a Jan. 10 CB6 meeting. 

Although the shelter was originally set to open in March, Beers-Dimitriadis recently received word that that date has been pushed back to this coming May. 

“I’m always making it clear that the Board had no vote in this matter,” CB6 Chair Heather Beers-Dimitriadis said. “We have a lot of people who seem to think that we did. We have a lot of people who seem to think that we are fully supportive of the shelter. We are supportive of the goals of the shelter, and we are equally supportive of the need for this community to live its life uninterrupted, in a very safe fashion. And we really hope that the two can happen at the same time.”

Not everyone is convinced. 

“There’s two schools in the neighborhood. There’s shopping, there’s communities, there’s businesses. We can’t allow this. And nobody asked us,” Kefalas said. Protesters also emphasized the hotel’s proximity to Lost Battalion Hall, a recreation center which is currently closed for renovations. 

Apple Maps marks P.S. 139 as a half-mile walk from the Wyndham hotel, and P.S. 206 as a 0.4 mile walk. 

Community District 6 has no other homeless shelters, by the DSS’s standards. But there is another shelter set to open across the road from Wyndham, housed near the Rego Park Post Office. Operated by WestHab, the facility will include transitional housing specifically for family units, not single men. 

“We’ll be rallying against that one too,” Kefalas said. 

Beers-Dimitriadis said that CB6 was surprised to find out that WestHab’s facility did not fulfill the district’s obligation to DSS to house at least one homeless shelter. The primary difference that she understands between that facility and Wyndham is the populations the two locations serve. 

“I think to the public, it is a distinction without a difference,” she said. “Their goals are the same.”

Additional distinctions are that the transitional housing facility will have apartment-style accommodations, while the Wyndham shelter will use the hotel’s existing structure, mostly consisting of rooms with two beds.  

Credit: Celia Bernhardt

In lieu of a vote on Wyndham — community boards have no veto power on the matter of shelters — CB6 passed a resolution on Feb. 7 detailing a list of considerations it wants the city to take when opening the shelter. Those include a request that the two shelters-to-be share one Community Advisory Board, rather than operate separate ones, to ensure more thorough oversight of their combined presence in the neighborhood.

Dao Yin, a Flushing resident and current Democratic candidate for the state assembly who previously ran unsuccessful campaigns for Queens Borough President in 2020 and City Council in 2021, was among the speakers on Feb. 18.  

“No more shelters in Queens, in Brooklyn, in Bronx, in Staten Island, in Manhattan. No more shelters in this city,” Yin said. 

Chants of “Close the borders!” rang out after the speeches came to a close. 

Monserrate told the Queens Ledger that Yin’s disapproval of all additional shelters in the city was not the group’s official sentiment. 

“There’s a need for shelters,” Monserrate said. “What’s happening right now is an abuse and an oversaturation in this part of Queens. That’s our major issue: the oversaturation, one. And two, the homeless men. We don’t know who they are. A lot of them are formerly incarcerated.” 

While Wyndham will be the sole DSS-recognized homeless shelter in Community District 6, it is just across the Expressway from CD3, which houses East Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst. Monserrate said that the area between Queens Boulevard and LaGuardia Airport, which includes CD3, currently has 15 shelters; the Queens Ledger could not independently verify that number. 

“It’s just saturated,” Kefalas said. “That’s why you’re seeing people coming from Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona, LeFrak City, because they know we’re right on the border here where these neighborhoods literally interlock. And they know. We all shop at the same [shops] around here, we all eat, we use the same transportation. We’re intertwined. They know what’s going to happen. That’s why people are coming here even as far away as Brooklyn to stand with us to stop this.”

Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Beers-Dimitriadis said that a significant portion of protesters seemed to come from outside of Rego Park. 

“There are people who have come into our community from East Elmhurst and Corona, that don’t live here, that I think are here because they have genuine concerns with how decisions are made about shelters. I get it. But they don’t represent Rego Park/Forest Hills,” she said.

Beers-Dimitriadis said her read on the Rego Park/Forest Hills community is that it’s split into thirds on the issue. 

“One third has no idea it’s even happening. No matter how hard we’ve tried to reach out, no matter how many articles have been written in the paper, 10,000 posts on Facebook,” Beers-Dimitriadis said. Another third, she estimates, is supportive of it, and the remaining third is against it.  

“Our message is clear to the city of New York. We are sick of you dumping shelter after shelter,” Monserrate said. “Our city tax dollars are paying for it. And then no one’s even talking to us, the people. But today, the people are united.”

Reticketing Signs Plaster Back Gate of Illegally Converted Building for Migrants in Richmond Hill

Credit: Christine Stoddard

By Christine Stoddard |

On Feb. 26, dozens of West African migrants were discovered living in an illegally converted furniture store in Richmond Hill. In this makeshift shelter in Saar’s Whole Furniture on Liberty Ave., men largely from Senegal paid owner Ebou Sarr, himself a Senegalese immigrant, up to $300 a month for accommodations.

As of March 1, the back gate of the store was covered in flyers explaining where migrants could obtain a ticket out of the city. Most of the flyers are written in French, the official language of Senegal, though it is not necessarily the native language of all Senegalese migrants. Flyers were also posted in Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Turkish, and Portuguese.

Under the city’s reticking program, new arrivals who have been discharged from the NYC asylum seeker shelter system may receive a one-way bus, train, or plane ticket out of New York City. The city’s reticketing center is located at:

St. Brigid

185 East 7th Street

New York, NY 10009

Open 7 days/9 AM to 7 PM

With the city’s 30-day shelter limit for adult asylum seekers, many people find themself without a place to go when the term expires. The migrant shelters maintain a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., making night work impossible for a population that has few employment options.

Complicating the issue of intaking asylum seekers in New York City is language. While the majority of migrants to the city are from Latin America, largely Venezuela, many are coming from West Africa, such as Senegal and Mauritania. More than 30 languages are spoken in Senegal, including Wolof, Serer, Fula, and Diola. Approximately 37% of the Senegalese population speaks French, mostly as a second language. The official language of Mauritania is Arabic; French was the official language until 1991.

Tribeca Pediatrics Move To Jamaica Avenue and Celebrate With Community Baby Shower

by Sherica Daley |

“We’re new to the neighborhood, and we wanted to reach out to everyone in the community” explained Zakiyyah Mohamed Stevens, Community Outreach Manager at the new Tribeca Pediatrics, now located in the heart of Jamaica Avenue. The colorful and vibrant office held its first Resource and Community Baby Shower for mothers with babies from ages newborn to six months old.

This event partnered with community outreach and healthcare partners like Healthfirst, Queens Healthy Start, Public Health Solutions and Jamaica Community Partnership. The Community Baby Shower was a positive effort to introduce the new clinic opening and meet families in the local community. The three-session event assisted in applying for health insurance, access to infant care and lactation consultation, community resources, and essential giveaways.

Tribeca Pediatrics is the largest private practice in the New York metro area. The practice was founded by Dr. Michel Cohen, a board-certified pediatrics in 1994. He started practicing pediatric medicine, asking home visits to new parents in Lower Manhattan’s Tribeca Neighborhood, where he later opened his first office on Murray Street. Thirty years later, Tribeca Pediatrics has almost 50 locations in the New York City, New Jersey, Westchester and soon on Long Island. The practice services over 100,000 patients, employs over 100 doctors and nurse practitioners, and has hospital affliction with New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan and New York Presbyterian Weil-Cornell Medical Center.

The baby shower was a goldmine of support for new and expecting mothers, especially with insurance. Most new mothers may have questions about updating their insurance.” Having straight Medicaid is tough” explained Dr. Cohen. “We accept Medicaid through managed-care plans only” he explained. Healthfirst was present with their new community office on Jamaica Avenue and 162nd Street. The new Healthfirst office can help new mothers apply for and renew insurance, and receive referrals to preventive health screenings, pediatricians, and dental care.

The Jamaica Community Partnership was there for community outreach programs for free services in Jamaica, Queens. The program shared information on free food pantries and clothing drives for adult and baby clothes. There was also information for mothers with disabilities with the Center Independence of the Disable of New York. (CIDNY). CIDNY provides free services with information with mothers or caregivers with long-term services and supports public assistance benefits, supportive housing, and SNAP.

Self-care is important for the mother-to-be, during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, and helps make the best decisions for mother and the baby, This assistance can be provided with a doula. A doula is a woman trained in obstetric training, breastfeeding support, post-natal support, and if needed, support in miscarriages, and stillbirth.

“It is important to know what services are out there, especially for women of color” explained Charline Ogbeni, the owner of Supporting Our Mothers Initiative, LLC. She is board-certified doula with board certification in Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

She was on site with useful information with community partners like the New York City Public Solutions . The Public Health Solutions have many services for new mother’s like the Breastfeeding Warmline.

This hotline can connect you with a certified lactation counselor anywhere in New York. The hotline can be contacted at 646-965-7212. The New York Public Solutions Health also assist low-income mothers with the Queens Diaper Bank. The Queens Diaper Bank offers free diapers to residents in Queens two days a month with an  appointment for diapers size newborn- size 7. For more information, on making an appointment, visit the Diaper Bank website. 

New York Public Solutions also have a partnership with the Birth Justice Defenders (BJDs). The BJDs are community advocates in pregnancy, childbirth postpartum and help provide education with the New York City Standards for Respectful Care at Birth. For more information, can be reached at  or call 929-287-5747

Ogebeni gave mothers information that can be access on their smartphones with the right app. The irth app, the “b” is dropped representing Bias, is a Yelp-like review ad ratings app for Black and Brown women to find and leave reviews of their maternity experience You can search for reviews from other woman of color in their birthing experience.

Hospitals in Queens, that partner with Tribeca Pediatrics, now offer a free program HOPE Doula Support. The HOPE, or Helping Promote Birth Equality through Community-Based Doula Care. It is a program located in Elmhurst Hospital and Queens Hospital, and is a community-based program with 20 Queens-based doulas to match patients based on neighborhood, language, and ethnicity. Once matched, that doula will remain with their client thorough birthing and postpartum and are referred to maternal home care and COVID-19 services for testing and vaccinations. For more information, can contact 1-844-NYC-4NYC for an appointment.

For mothers who are home-bound, there is a preventative program such as the The New York Foundling Partners for Change which provides in-home family therapy and case management based on the family’s needs. It is also available in multiple languages and American Sign Language (ASL). To complete a referral form for services, can be found online

The community baby shower was a successful effort to Tribeca Pediatrics to the community, and build a support system for not only mothers but mothers of all nationalities, economic status, and/or disabilities. “The point is to connect mothers with services and support each other in any way we can,” said Ogebeni.

Tech startup hopes to cut down NYC commutes with electric air travel

All photos credit: Charlie Finnerty

Joby Aviation, a tech startup that plans to bring electric short-distance air travel to New York City, welcomed visitors to take a ride in their flight simulator and learn about their ambitious reimagining of commuting at Vaughn College last week. Among those who visited throughout the week were high school faculty, transportation and environmental advocates, Vaugh college faculty and children from the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens.

The venture-backed aviation company plans to use electric vertical takeoff aircraft to create a service similar to Uber for short-haul flights, beginning with a direct route between the Downtown Manhattan/Wall St. Heliport and JFK International Airport. According to Joby’s East Policy Lead Lydon Sleeper, the flight will cut the commute — which can often take over an hour by car with traffic — down to seven minutes at a price point for customers that will be “competitive with Uber Black,” the luxury level Uber option. Sleeper puts that number around $140.

Joby started as a team of engineers based in Santa Cruz, California born out of the longtime dream of founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt who had been fascinated by engineering and electric air travel since his childhood.

“[Bevirt] doesn’t want it to be a service for rich people,” Sleeper said. “‘Save a billion people an hour a day’ is what he wants to do. You can’t do that charging $250.”

The aircraft borrows inspiration from several forms of air travel, using vertical takeoff that resembles that of a helicopter, forward-thrust gliding travel at speeds around 200 mph similar to a conventional airplane and a visual form factor that may remind many viewers of commercially available drones. The largest influence though, according to Sleeper, is the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, an aircraft first used by the American military in 2007 that combines the vertical takeoff and landing functionality of a helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. Both Joby and the Osprey accomplish this with articulating rotors that shift from vertically positioned for lift during takeoff to a frontwards-facing position during flight to achieve smoother and faster flight than a helicopter could ever achieve.

These flight mechanics, along with the use of electrical power, make the Joby both easy to pilot and quiet during flight. As part of the presentation, audio recordings of the Joby alongside other common aircraft that often populate New York City air traffic showed the dramatic reduction in noise pollution compared to conventional helicopters and planes.

According to Sleeper, Joby hopes to begin piloting its first commercial flights in New York City as early as next year.

All photos credit: Charlie Finnerty

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