The New York City Local

Cabbies at E. Side stand break rules, rile riders by refusing lifts unless Wall St. is destination

Local New York

NY Daily News


Jonathan Lemire, DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU

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94-year-old Angar Hanberngor tried in vain to get a ride at the East Side taxi stand. (NYDN)


These cabs will only occupy Wall Street - and they're shunning passengers heading anywhere else.

Scores of yellow cab drivers at an upper East Side taxi stand are violating city regulations by only taking riders to the Financial District, officials charge.

If would-be commuters ask to go elsewhere in the city, they are often met with locked doors and icy stares from drivers who are only looking to score a big fare to Wall Street - even if means turning down an elderly woman.

"I'm an old woman with a cane, walking around in the rain, and they refused to help me," said Shirley Zussman, 97, who lives near the stand at York Ave. and E. 79th St.

"I walked up to three drivers and they wouldn't open the door - they only rolled down their windows long enough to say they were going to Wall Street," said Zussman, who was heading to a doctor's office on 14th St.

The stand was set up about 15 years ago to help service a neighborhood with few mass transit options, officials say.

Drivers there are allowed to pick up four passengers at a time to share a flat $24 fee to Wall Street - but the cabs are also required by city law to give anyone a ride to any other city destination.

Most cabbies at the stand flout the rules, which are posted on a sign just above where the cabs idle.

The Daily News witnessed more than two dozen drivers turn down non-Wall Street passengers during yesterday morning's rush - even though their cabs were empty.

"This stand was set up for the convenience of the commuters in this neighborhood, and all it's done is create confusion and frustration," said City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, who represents the area.

Lappin and her staff, after fielding complaints from constituents, set up a sting yesterday to test the cabbies.

Lappin was able to get a ride to E. 63rd St. after seven cabbies refused - and she was lucky.

One of her staffers looking to head to the Lexington Ave. subway station struck out with seven other taxis.

"The cab drivers' latest trick is to keep their off-duty light on while sitting in the stand, and they use that as their excuse to not give someone a ride," Lappin said. "They say, 'Hey, I'm off duty,' but yet they'd still go to Wall Street."

Lappin is introducing a bill Monday that would make it illegal for a cabbie to have his off-duty light lit while in a taxi stand.

The cherry-picking cabbies erroneously claimed yesterday that they were following the rules - and longtime residents are fed up with the runaround.

"It's such an outrage that they won't give me a ride," said Ben Davidson, 52, who was rebuffed as he tried to get to LaGuardia Airport.

The head of the taxi workers union defended the drivers, saying most believe the stand is only for group rides.

"As a driver, when you get online at a stand you're anticipating that your fares will go to a certain part of the city, and that sets up your day," Bhairavi Desaid said.

A spokesman for the city Taxi and Limousine Commission acknowledged the stand was a "longstanding problem" and that the city would be stepping up enforcement.

jlemire@nydailynews.com

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