Streams

Kathleen Horan

Reporter, WNYC News

Kathleen Horan appears in the following:

12 Hours Behind the Wheel in NYC, With No Food Or Drink

Thursday, August 09, 2012

(photo by Kathleen Horan)

If you're traveling by taxi this summer, chances are your driver is hungrier than usual. Nearly half of licensed drivers in the city are Muslim—and they’re not eating because they’re observing Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and reflection. That means thousands of cabbies are working 12-hour shifts without food, water or caffeine.

Muslims break their daily fast at sundown. One recent evening, the West 29th Street curbside in Manhattan held so many taxis that the street glowed yellow. This commercial district in Manhattan has free evening parking, a boon for drivers.

Around 8 p.m., as the day's light faded, cabbies rushed into a mosque called Masjid Ar-Rhahman. A mountain of their shoes rose in the vestibule. Soon their sung prayers emanated from a loudspeaker at the top of the mosque. Outside, vendors selling prayer books and sweet treats waited patiently for the cabbies to emerge from inside.

Driver Lansana Keita was one of the first ones out. He smiled as he ate his first food of the day, a sweet rice concoction that resembled rice pudding. "You need something soft after fasting all day, to help your metabolism to digest,” he said.

Keita said his biggest obstacle during Ramadan is keeping up his stamina during a shift that typically features mind-numbing traffic, the threat of parking tickets and the never-ending drone of the TV in his backseat. He said driving on an empty stomach while dealing with the daily guff from passengers becomes a spiritual exercise.

"When someone cusses on you, you have to let it go," he said. "When someone wants to have drama with you, you have to let it go--those are the principles of Ramadan.”

Drivers who chose not to eat in the mosque huddled on the sidewalk in small groups to consume their long-awaited meals.

"I love this: it’s called pakora, samosa and chana,” said Mohammed Tipu Sultan, a driver of 10 years, about his Bangladeshi meal. Sultan made the food disappear in a hurry, like anyone would after fasting for 16 hours.

(photo by Kathleen Horan)

Driver Yehya Abdeen was on his way to get his first caffeine fix at a local cafe before resuming his night shift. He said a purpose of Ramadan is to teach patience—a trait city cabbies aren't always known for.

"I try to be nice all the time, but we try to be more nice during Ramadan," he said, before joking, "But it’s hard when you don't take your coffee, you know?"

During Ramadan, Muslims are required to pray more than the usual five times a day. So you may see drivers stopping to kneel in the direction of Mecca on squares of cardboard or small rugs in the back of bodegas and restaurants.

(photo by Kathleen Horan)

Or at JFK airport. At the airport's taxi lot, hundreds of drivers were lined up awaiting a fare to Manhattan. About two dozen drivers made use of a makeshift prayer area, bowing and kneeling next to a pair of public restrooms.

Tely Diallo, a tall driver in a gingham shirt, was about to jump into his cab again. He paused to complain that it’s hard to make enough money when you're pulling over to pray an extra two hours a day.

"You can't really do what you've got to do," he said. "You can't pray on time. I was supposed to be praying a long time ago but I couldn’t because you're always in a rush, you want to get the lease money."

(photo by Kathleen Horan)

Cabbie Mohammed Waheed said it helps that so many other drivers are fasting with him during the holy month. "The fifteen of my friends who are cab drivers—they all fast," he said.

Muslims, including many New York taxi drivers, will be observing Ramadan this year until the weekend of August 18, when the fasting ends and the completion of a month of self-control is celebrated.

Read More

Comments [3]

Funeral For 4-Year-Old Boy Becomes a Call to Action

Thursday, August 02, 2012

WNYC

The short life of a young boy killed by a stray bullet at a basketball tournament in the Bronx was remembered Wednesday night in Harlem.

Comment

After Delays, Coney Island Gets a Zipline

Monday, July 30, 2012

WNYC

Coney Island’s zip line ride was supposed to debut in the beginning of July. What’s been holding it up? Well, according to Patrick Ingram, owner of a Michigan-based zip line company, Category 5 Productions, it’s the city’s stringent requirements.

Comment

Con Ed Workers, Managers Say They're Eager to Get Back to Day Jobs

Friday, July 27, 2012

Con Ed workers and the managers who had been asked to step in for some of the 8,000 employees locked out since July 1 said on Thursday that they were relieved to return to their normal day jobs after the union and the utility ended the labor conflict.

Comment

Con Ed, Union Strike Deal to End Lockout

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York City utility Consolidated Edison and its union are agreeing to end a lockout and labor conflict.

Comments [17]

Fingers Still Do the Walking…But Mainly Online

Sunday, July 22, 2012

WNYC

It's still common to see piles of phone books delivered to apartment buildings around the city. But many of these yellow pages lay neglected outside front doors as people use the internet far more frequently to find phone numbers.

Comments [4]

A Tale of Two Pools: A Day at the Pool in Wake of McCarren Park Incidents

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sunbathers sprawling out poolside and swimmers finding relief from the unrelenting city swelter at McCarren Park Pool on a recent afternoon. It wasn't much different at Astoria Pool, the city's largest. But the heightened security at McCarren was a subtle reminder of the violent incidents this summer that have marred its reopening.

Comments [4]

Con Ed Defends Tactics to State As Locked Out Workers Rally

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Consolidated Edison is defending the way it has handled the lock out of its 8,500 workers to a state regulator, as union workers from across the city rallied outside Con Ed’s headquarters.

Comments [12]

Union Asks State to Step In, Force Con Ed to End Lock Out

Friday, July 13, 2012

As Consolidated Edison labor talks continue, the union that represents the utility’s locked out workers is asking a state agency to investigate the impact the lock out is having on services.

Comments [15]

NYC Approves 17% Cab Fare Hike

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Drivers rejoice & head of TWA Bhairavi Desai is moved to tears after the Commission's vote (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNC)

Bhairavi Desai, head of the drivers group Taxi Workers Alliance, cheering the vote with drivers (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

The price of taking a cab will be going up in the fall.

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted Thursday to approve a fare hike that would increase the cost of a ride by 17 percent.

The TLC estimates that the average fare of $10.44 would rise to $12.21 after the increase is expected to go into effect in September. The plan increases the mileage and waiting charges, but not the base fare of $2.50.

The flat fee between Manhattan and Kennedy Airport would jump from $45 to $52 and the surcharge to/or from Newark Liberty International Airport would also rise from $15 to $17.50.

Commissioner David Yassky said even though New Yorkers will be paying more, they also realize it’s the right time. “Most passengers that I talked to understand that after six years it’s only reasonable to increase the taxi fare,” Yassky commented.

New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission head David Yassky, speaking to press (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

Six commissioners, including Yassky, voted to approve the hike, two voted no, and one abstained.

Cabbies attending the meeting cheered as they learned the measure they fought hard for was passed.

They were also were pleased by several other aspects of the proposal, including replacing the 5 percent-per-swipe credit card fees with a flat $10.00 fee per shift charge and establishing a driver heath fund.

There had been much angling behind the scenes by large taxi fleet owners who said they also deserved an increase in leasing rates because their costs were also rising. Borough Commissioners from Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn appeared to agree with them when they spoke and voted against the plan. Staten Island Commissioner Elias Arout described giving drivers a raise and not the garages “lopsided.”

Michael Woloz, a spokesman with the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, no stranger to litigating with the city, said they’re reviewing their options. “Time and time again when the TLC has passed unlawful rules we have fought them and the courts have affirmed our position,” Woloz said.

But Bhairavi Desai, head of the drivers group Taxi Workers Alliance, said not having to share the increase with rich medallion owners was a triumph. “We just defeated the 1 percent. We don’t have their money, their lobbyists, or their P.R. people,” a tearful Desai said. ”Today is evidence that working people can still win in this society.”

The commission said going forward, it would consider lease and fare increases every odd numbered year so that neither side of the industry had to wait so long to for an increase again.

Fares last went up in 2006 when waiting time charges increased. The last time overall cab fees rose was 8 years ago, when a 26 percent increase passed.

Read More

Comment

Taxi Commission Approves Fare Hike

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The price of taking a cab will be going up in the fall. The Taxi and Limousine Commission voted on Thursday to approve a fare hike that would increase the cost of a ride by 17 percent.

Comments [1]

NYC Cab Drivers Push for Fare Hike Ahead of TLC Vote

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Taxi drivers made their feelings known through testimony and signs (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Cab drivers from throughout the city came out in force on Monday to push the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to approve the proposed 17 percent fare hike.

The increase, if approved later this week, would increase charge per mile but the $2.50 base rate would stay the same. The flat fare to and from JFK Airport would also jump from $45 to $52.

Speaking to a room mostly of fare-hike backers during a hearing Monday, TLC Commissioner David Yassky said he supports the measure, which would be the first time in six years that fares have increased.

"The price of a loaf of bread has gone up. A gallon of milk has gone up. Certainly, the price of a gallon of gasoline has gone way up, and I think that taxi passengers understand they have to pay for some of that,” Yassky said.

But approval of the plan isn’t a done deal. Just two of the commission’s nine TLC commissioners appeared at the hearing, and medallion owners have been angling behind the scenes.

At least one borough Commissioner, Frank Carone of Brooklyn, has said he’d vote against the proposal as it stands now because the increase doesn't meet the guidelines for rules that govern fare increases.

But the head of the Taxi Worker Alliance, Bhairavi Desai, said the wait has been too long.

“The idea that hard-working people are earning 25 percent less today than what they earned in 2006 is absolutely unacceptable,” Desai said. “After 12 long hours behind a wheel, collectively serving over a half a million people, there’s no question taxi drivers deserve to make a livable income.”

Fleet owners complained the fare proposal leaves them out. The TLC isn't considering increasing the amount garages can charge drivers for renting the taxi and medallion—otherwise known as lease caps.

Michael Woloz, spokesman for the fleet group the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, urged the commission to consider their rising costs too. He said the price of maintaining a garage is expensive.

“(To) have tow truck operators, gas stations  and mechanics that work 24 hours a day to make sure New Yorkers’ taxi service is that best in the world—that costs money” Woloz said.

He said a 19 percent increase to both fares and lease caps would be more equitable.

But, according to TLC figures, fleets can make about $48,650 per medallion, meaning a 200-cab fleet could make more than $9 million a year, which the TLC doesn’t consider a hardship.

The TLC is scheduled to vote on the plan this Thursday.

Read More

Comment

Drivers Push for Fare Hike Ahead of TLC Vote

Monday, July 09, 2012

Cab drivers from throughout the city came out in force on Monday to push the Taxi and Limousine Commission to approve the proposed 17 percent fare hike.

Comment

NYC Taxi Commission To Vote on Fare Increase This Week

Monday, July 09, 2012

(photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) By the end of the summer, the cost of a taxi trip may be more expensive.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to vote this week on the first taxi fare hike in six years. The proposed increase would boost fares by 17 percent.

Cab driver Badr Battaoui, 29, said the daily cost of leasing the taxi and medallion, rising gas prices and 5 percent drivers are charged per credit card transaction add up.

“The bills are expensive,” he said during a short break from his 10-hour shift at the corner of Second Avenue and 1st Street. “I'm not going to tell you that I'm poor, but I don't save up that much, you know? I have student loans. My wife has student loans. We have kids."

Cab drivers are also hoping that the TLC will end high credit card fees and institute a driver health fund, which the city is considering for the first time.

Veteran cabbie Brij Jihingen, who has chronic illnesses such as diabetes, said he has been waiting 25 years for a health fund that would set aside 6 cents per ride.

"I have sugar, blood cholesterol and blood pressure-- you name it I have it,” said Jihingen, who, like many of his fellow drivers, does not have health insurance.

A health fund, he said, would show the city values its taxi drivers.

"Because we are working for the city as well… you can see a normal person's health and a taxi driver’s health -- you can recognize a taxi driver from a distance...here's a cab driver coming.”

Taxi passengers have mixed feelings about the proposed increase.

John Salvo, who runs a Soho art gallery and lives in New Jersey, said comparatively taxis are cheaper in New York City than many other cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas.

"They actually do a pretty good job and it’s a pretty fair bargain so perhaps rates should go up a bit,” he said.

Gayle Brown, who lives in Manhattan, said she rides her bike most places and takes cabs only when she’s wearing heels or heading to or from the airport. But she feels for the drivers.

“Well, everybody is pinching and food is going up, everything is going up”, she said.  “I don't blame people for trying. Cab drivers aren't rich. You can see that.”

Of course, not all customers are on board.

Sherri Lynn Graham from the Bronx doesn’t think drivers don't deserve it.

“I think it’s crazy because they're not polite people sometimes, and they don't stop for black people sometimes,” she said. “You know, you want an increase then you should give us the service that we need.”

Also being considered is the elimination of the per-swipe fee of 5 percent cabbies must pay on credit cards, and instituting a flat $9-per-shift charge instead. Fleet owners vehemently oppose the proposal.

Michael Woloz, spokesman for the fleet organization the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade said “the $9-a-shift increase is not an increase at all—also, it’s far less than the 5 percent.”

Woloz said he thought the proposal was a punishment to medallion owners who are currently pursuing a lawsuit against the city to block a plan that would allow livery cars to accept street hails.

While drivers are hoping for a fare hike with no increase in the lease rates, many longtime passengers, like Gina Cecala, 80, of Manhattan are ambivalent about paying more for a ride.

"Dollar more, dollar less — don't bother me, beats walking,” said Cecala, who takes cabs several times a week. “They want it, they get it. That's it.”

The TLC is holding a public hearing on the fare proposal Monday and is expected to vote on the measure this Thursday.

Read More

Comments [1]

TLC to Vote on Fare Increase, Other Driver-Backed Changes

Monday, July 09, 2012

WNYC

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to vote this week on the first taxi fare hike in six years. The proposed increase would boost fares by 17 percent.

Comment

Swimmers Suggest Ways to Restore Order at McCarren Pool

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

It's been less than a week since McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn reopened after being closed for nearly 30 years. Already, a lifeguard has been attacked and three men have been arrested  and charged with second-degree assault for allegedly assaulting a police officer, as well as reports of thefts. Those incidents haven't stopped many from coming out for a swim at the at the Greenpoint-Williamsburg landmark.

Comments [10]

Composting In City Schools Catches On

Monday, July 02, 2012

WNYC

A handful of public schools have been so successful in slashing the amount of cafeteria garbage they created through composting that the program is being expanded by the Bloomberg administration.

Comments [1]

Appeals Court Overturns Accessible Taxi Ruling

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A federal appeals court ruled the city does not have to ensure that all licensed taxies are wheelchair-accessible – meaning the city does not have to overhaul its taxi fleet.

Comment

Look | McCarren, a Pool With a Past

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Among the many city pools opening on Thursday is McCarren Park pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The pool, which had been closed for nearly 30 years, has a long, colorful history in the neighborhood. View a slideshow of the McCarren pool through the years.

Comments [11]

NJ Lawmakers Reach Deal on Teacher Tenure

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The New Jersey State Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve a bill that would make it harder for teachers to obtain and keep tenure.

Comment