FAR ROCKAWAY — Alan Canale parks a van near Far Rockaway High School by 7 a.m. every school day to wait for his customers, students who have paid him $1 a day for more than a year to store their cellphones while they’re in class.
“We were bracing for it but I didn’t think it would happen so fast,” he said in his truck, as he stayed warm with a space heater.
“I’m trying to figure out what’s next.”
In announcing the new rules, de Blasio noted how unfair the ban was, since students who attended schools without metal detectors could still sneak in phones.
And the issue of safety and communication was also pivotal, he said.
"Parents should be able to call or text their kids — that’s what this comes down to,” de Blasio said, announcing the new policy at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Bay Ridge. “It’s something Chirlane and I felt ourselves when Chiara took the subway to high school in another borough each day."
Canale, who has two sons in high school, said he first decided to get into the cellphone storing business after his two sons told him they kept their phones at a local deli.
He decided to offer a different option and started parking his Lock and Learn truck on Bay 25th Street, between the school and the A train station, in September 2013.
Canale said he soon saw himself as more than just a storage truck.
“I want to be the eyes in the street,” he said, adding that some parents call him to make sure their kids have arrived at school. He also communicates with the school’s security guards, who also call him to check up on students.
“I like to believe I’m an extra security guard.”
During the school day he reads books or studies, and he’s currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Phoenix.
He nets around $160 to $170 per day, but said larger companies — like Pure Loyalty LLC, which operates trucks in the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan — can rake in hundreds of dollars more. VIP Lock and Learn customers pay a cheaper fee in advance, averaging around $15 per month.
A call to Pure Loyalty was not immediately returned.
Canale's gotten to know the students well, and sometimes he lets them store their phones, or expensive headphones or even skateboards, on his truck for free.
“I know parents have it rough,” he said. “My main purpose is to get them into school”
Students dropping off at Lock and Learn said they were excited they'd finally be allowed to take their phones with them.
Kevin Lubin, 16, a student at the Frederick Douglass Academy, which is based at the Far Rockaway campus, said he'd probably use his phone during the day.
"I'm not gonna lie, it'll be a distraction," he said.
But Quanisha Hollman, 17, who attends the Academy of Medical Technology, said it didn't make any difference to her, even though she'd have an extra $1 every day.
"I won't use my phone in school," she said.