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.
The city approved an increase in fines for cab drivers who break a wide range of rules — from being caught using a cell phone while driving to refusing to accept a credit card.
Fine increases are between $25 and $200 more per infraction. Driving with the taxi doors locked, for instance, used to cost cabbies between $50 and $200. Now, it's a mandatory $400 fine.
"They work very hard, the gas is outrageous, there's traffic all over the city — and you want to raise the fine? The way it is, it’s too high," said Vincent Sapone, director of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, during a Taxi and Limousine Commission hearing Thursday.
But drivers who plead guilty to breaking a rule in advance will pay a lesser penalty and won't have to go before a TLC judge.
TLC Commissioner David Yassky, who said some fines haven't been increased in decades, thinks drivers would welcome an opportunity not to miss work.
But Bill Lindauer, of Taxi Worker's Alliance, said "even if a driver is innocent he figures, 'They might find me guilty anyway, so I might was well plead guilty and pay the lesser fine.' But that's not true justice."
The new fines are expected to go into effect by August.