Illegal cabs better think twice before trying to pick up fares outside the Pelham Bay IRT train station.
Over the summer dozens of summonses were issued to cabbies illegally picked up clients outside the last stop on the number 6 subway line. On Wednesday, October 20, Councilman James Vacca announced that the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission had successfully organized the sting, at his request.
“Call after call came into my office saying Pelham Bay Station was starting to look like the Wild West,” Vacca said. “We had cabs lining up at the curb and blocking traffic, cabs honking at people on the sidewalk, and cars cutting in front of other cars to pick up street hails. It was a dangerous situation, and I immediately called upon the TLC to act.”
Members of the TLC targeted unlicensed, potentially uninsured and unsafe livery cabs that were picking up street hails, which is only unlawful for any cabs except permitted yellow taxis. The sting nabbed 44 cabbies and issued them summonses, and also seized five vehicles.
Undercover TLC inspectors performed the sting between April and August, visiting the station during peak hours on dozens of occasions. During these visits investigators found evidence of illegal activity, such as picking up street hails without a permit, which led them to issue the summonses and seize the cars.
“We appreciate Council Member Vacca’s making us aware of the situation at Pelham Bay Station,” said TLC Commissioner David Yassky. “Our partnering on this issue has enhanced public safety, and we look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that commuters receive the safe and convenient service upon which they rely.”
Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns said aggressive cabbies coming to the station, which is both the last stop on the 6 subway line and a major entry point for Pelham Bay Park, for several years.
“There is a taxi stand there with many legitimate, tax-paying businesses, but they are often shoved out of the way by illegal cabs,” he said. “They line up outside the station preventing the legitimate cabs from being there. They just hog the space and people jump in and go. Nobody knows the questionable nature of the driver.”
Kearns said the community board let the TLC perform several enforcement operations earlier this year, which also netted several summonses and seizures.
He said the board took action after seeing the unlicensed cabbies line up day after day. Board members were concerned not only about illegal cabs crowding the station, but also about the danger passengers might be risking when getting into the cabs.
“You could just look at the cars themselves. Most of them are falling apart. They weren’t safe and they didn’t have the proper tags,” he said. “They didn’t have proper tags and they weren’t safe. The average customer doesn’t know what kind of a car they could be getting into.”
The community board is now looking to request similar TLC stings at taxi stations in Co-op City, along East Tremont Avenue and into Westchester Square. Officials are also asking for help from the 45 Precinct to fight the illegal taxis.
“We in the community board will continue to work on this, and we’re gratified to learn that the councilman has succeeded in this effort to fight the illegal taxis,” Kearns said.
TLC officials also urged passengers to make sure only ride in cabs that display special decals on both rear quarter windows indicating that they are licensed.