Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
City lawmakers are looking into complaints about taxi refusals — and they have a few of their own.
Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer recalled a recent rainy night when he wanted to go from Manhattan to Long Island City, but after he said where he was going, the driver told him he was on a break.
"You're looking to get back and you just know you're gonna get a cab that's gonna say, 'Where you going?'" Van Bramer said during a hearing on the topic.
Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said increasing fines and penalties will help curb the problem.
"I think if drivers understood that if they said, 'I'm on break' and drove away that there was a decent chance that they would get a fine in the mail they would stop doing it" Yassky said.
Lawmakers also heard from drivers, like Mohan Singh, who said at times he has reason to decline a fare but is scared to be reported.
"There are many customers, passengers, they are abusing me," Singh said. "Sometimes they use bad words against my parents. Sometimes I weep myself, but I cannot do anything."
Drivers can refuse a taxi trip if they experience threats or bias language, but they say that it's hard to prove to city officials.
The drivers group, the Taxi Workers Alliance, said officials are overstating the problem. But drivers who do refuse fares worry that outer boroughs trips will cause them to not be able to cover their expenses.
Drivers are pushing for a 15 percent fare increase and suggesting the city install more group ride stands in Manhattan during peak times.
The City Council is expected to vote on the bill to increase fines and penalties by the summer.