• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

How to stand up to taxi drivers who say “no” in Brooklyn

ByElla E. Kidwell

Feb 7, 2014

So you made the bold decision to take a taxi today. Congratulations! You’re tired, it’s late, and you’re an adult who shouldn’t risk getting into a urine-splattered subway fight at 3 a.m. Happy with your choice, you stretch out your arm; a yellow cab swerves obediently at your feet. “Where are you going?” asks the driver. You’re hesitating. “Broooklyn? you venture, trying to make the word sound as much like “Union Square” as possible. “Broonion Squarelyn?” “You talk like Leonardo DiCaprio once Lemmon’s quaaludes began. The taxi driver is on top of you, and he speeds away, splattering your poo snow pants in his wake.

The New York Times can write all the “Brooklyn Has Happened” #smarttakes in the world, but unless you can find a way to metastasize those stories into clean $20 bills, living in the outer boroughs means preparing to spend a lot time to be rejected by taxi drivers.

Like all Brooklyn residents, Jim Search – a resident of Crown Heights for six years – is fed up with the shameless infractions of taxi drivers who refuse to take him home. He’s argued with drivers in the past, he said, but never really pushed for justice – there was always too much bureaucracy. But that changed one night in December, when Search got into the back of a taxi on 4th Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan and began the usual heated tete-a-tete with the driver.

“I’m going to Crown Heights,” Search said. “I’m not going,” replied the driver. But Search wasn’t really in the mood that day. He stayed in his seat and called 311. Potential travelers approached the window, but Search chased them away. “People were coming, knocking on the window and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s not finished, you can go.'”

The driver, furious at Search’s behavior, left his seat and headed for Search’s door, opening it for him. Research refused to be dissuaded. “I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Look, if you touch me, I’ll call the police.'” He stayed on the phone with the 311 operator for 15 minutes, reporting all the necessary information. (number, name, intersection) before finally exiting.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission called Search a few weeks later and asked him to testify by phone. The process took about 20 minutes, and this week Search received the following notice from the agency, alerting it that the driver had been fined $1,650 and had four points added to his license :

TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said the agency makes it as easy as possible to report willful drivers who refuse to obey the law. He said passengers who have been denied service should always strive to retrieve a driver’s medallion number and call 311 with as much information as possible. The TLC will send the passenger a confirmation by mail and give him the opportunity to testify at a trial which can be held by telephone. It sounds like a pain in the ass, but, Fromberg said, the payoff is that the driver’s feet will be kept on fire, providing better service to residents of the outer borough in the long run.

“It’s definitely worth it – passengers who’ve been through it regularly say it’s a very satisfying process for them,” he said. “It helps us hold drivers appropriately accountable when they’ve done something that breaks our rules.”

In cases where the driver locks the door until the destination has been revealed, Fromberg advises passengers to record the cabin medallion number, which is visible in several places, including along the sides of the vehicle, on the license plate and on the dome light.

A driver found guilty of refusing service will be fined on the first offense, fined and suspended for 30 days on the second, and could face permanent license revocation on the third.

Search said the process had been rewarding.

“I wholeheartedly say you should,” he said. “I feel like I finally got justice.”