Mayor Giuliani Declares War on New York City Taxi Drivers

A political “no-brainer” he calls it. New York City Taxi Drivers are traditionally an unpopular and despised group, and now poorly paid and almost entirely immigrants, so Mayor Giuliani has decided to score political points by declaring war on them.

This is a war the Mayor cannot win. He took on welfare recipients and is driving them into the streets. The voters are happy about it. However, just as Indian leaders gained political popularity by dropping the Atom Bomb, but wait until their people start to chafe under international sanctions, now wait to see what happens when and if the Mayor of New York City continues to carry out his threats.

Mayor Giuliani

One reason that taxi drivers are so disliked is that everybody thinks that they make a lot of money. This is not true. Taxi driving is a minimum wage job with incredibly hard grueling hours, which is the reason why almost only immigrants from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh do this work.

The driver must pay between $90 and $135 to rent the taxi to drive for a 12-hour shift. He must also post a deposit, which is typically $200. However, the $90 rate is only available at unpopular times, such as Saturday and Sunday morning when there are few passengers. If the driver wants to drive on Friday night, he must pay $135.

The drive must also pay for his own gas which, on a typical 12-hours shift, costs $25.

Thus, if the driver pays $125 for the cab and $25 for the gas, he must take in $150 just to break even.

The best I ever made was $210 on a 12-hour shift. Thus, I cleared $60 for 12 hours of driving, for an average of $5.00 per hour, which is less than the legal minimum wage.

In addition, if anybody bumps his car, the driver must pay for repair. Other New York City drivers are constantly bumping into New York City taxis. The taxis rarely bump anyone, because they know that the money will be taken out of their deposit which they were required to leave when they rented the taxi.

Taxi drivers are constantly stopped and fined by the New York Taxi and Limousine. I was stopped and fined $205 when I was clearly not guilty. I took it to court and the judge ruled against me. They took away my hack license and I could not drive again until I had paid the full $205 in cash.

The shift the driver will drive will be either from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM or from 5:00 PM to 5:00 AM. He has no choice. These are the only shifts available.

Why doesn’t he drive from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM, you ask. The answer is that the City of New York sells these taxi medallions for $227,000 each (that is two hundred twenty seven thousand dollars). That is the price the city received at the latest auction, which was on October 2, 1997. In order to pay the mortgage which is usually involved in buying a taxi medallion, the cab must be kept running 24 hours per day, even when there are almost no passengers on the streets.

Mayor Giuliani

Mayor Giuliani says that if New York City taxi drivers do not buckle under and call off their protests, he will allow unlicensed livery cabs to prowl the city streets. Is that what the Mayor wants? Does the Mayor really want approximately 15,000 - 20,000 unlicensed livery drivers who have never driven in Manhattan before to start picking up passengers? New Yorker who are almost uniformly anti-taxi driver, are saying that it would be better to ban them anyway. Who needs taxis anyway, they say. I will tell you who. That is correct. Native New Yorkers, for the most part, do not take taxis. They ride the subway. Those who ride taxis are almost all out-of-towners. Predominantly and perhaps most importantly, the biggest group of taxi riders are tourists from foreign countries who have read in their home countries that New York City is a dangerous place and the subways are dangerous to ride. Tourists are almost always advised to take taxis.

If Mayor Giuliani carries out his threats and either allows unlicensed drivers or bans taxis altogether, the foreign tourists will not start using the subway. Rather, they will simply not come to New York City at all and will go to San Francisco and Los Angeles instead.

Is that what Mayor Giuliani really wants?

I have a simple solution. The City of New York should redeem the Taxi medallions that it sold and pay back $227,000 to each of the 12,227 owners of a medallion.

Sam Sloan

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