Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This past Monday at 11:30 I showed up at the Taxi and Limo Commission in Queens. I went through the security checkpoint on the 1st floor, past the wide-eyed newbie applicants on the 2nd floor, and right into a thick crowd of weary-eyed veteran cabbies awaiting their court hearings on the 3rd floor. Half a dozen taxi attorneys shuffled about, each with their personal gaggle of hacks following behind them. We all stood and sat in the hallway for 3 or 4 hours longer than expected (scheduled.) Paks. Afghans. Colombians. Nigerians. Egyptians. Tibetans. Kazakhs. Hindus. Sikhs. You name it.

At about 3 PM I was called into a little room to sit before an enormous desk. Across from me sat the judge with his nose deep inside the thick TLC law book, flipping pages endlessly as if it was his first day there (though it was far from it.) He dismissed my case based on the erroneous dates and points on the summons. That's right folks! I'm still a licensed taxicab operator in the City of New York. It was the miracle I needed for this upcoming holiday season (the most prosperous time of the year for taxi drivers). I plan to save for upcoming world travels in the spring and summer of 2010.

Sonny, my Bangladeshi dispatcher back at the depot, had urgently referred me to attorney Rizwan Raja, an organizer for the NY Taxi Workers Alliance. Both Sonny and Rizwan have proven to be absolute angels in my quest for justice and dignity. I feel privileged to have been represented by a genuinely kindhearted lawyer AND to find myself in the good hands of NYC's best taxi dispatcher each time I go lease a cab. Sonny might give a first impression of being crude and churlish, but he demonstrates true concern for his hacks on a daily basis.

"Rizwan Raja or vakil saab (as he is now called) is the legal eagle of the Taxi Alliance. After driving for ten years, Rizwan decided to take on the TLC more directly. He now is the NYTWA’s representative at TLC courts in Queens and Manhattan. If you want to make him drop his serious vakil saab persona ask him about his daughter Nayab!" -TAKEN FROM THE NYTWA BIO PAGE


Raja explained to me how hard it is to fall asleep every night knowing that the sustenance of cabdrivers with families to feed is on the line. The ever harder push to accelerate the yellow cabdriver turnover rate in NYC is driven by the Mayor's Office. It's no secret that the recent (massive) wave of suspensions and revocations is not a sincere attempt to rid the streets of danger, but rather a two-fold scheme to increase city revenue, and to keep solidarity among hacks to a minimum.

That brings us to a very current topic among New Yorkers: the mayoral candidates. It's obvious that Michael Bloomberg has little to no room in his heart for this city's hacks. His indifference to our plights translates into an utter lack of respect for our profession, embodied by officers of the NYPD. It comes as no surprise that his 3rd term has the unprecedented endorsement of all 5 local police unions. This is the first time in NYC history that all of the police unions have supported the same candidate.

For a long time I, too, was enamored by Bloomberg's straightforward, WYSIWYG way of speaking, and his efforts to make our streets more livable for pedestrians and bicyclists. That's right, a taxicab-driving bicycle advocate! Ever thought you'd meet one? I live on a beautiful planet and though I technically burn fossil fuels for a living, I'm anxious to see the human race revere and appreciate her.

I was willing to look past Bloomberg's billion dollar fortune and judge only his character, but he's inevitably slipped into my myriad list of bullocks politicians. Yellow cabs do not fall into the same category as civilian motor vehicles in Manhattan. Taxis need the same slack and consideration given to buses and delivery trucks, but neither Bloomberg nor his opponent, Thompson, seem to have much compassion for the yellow brother/sisterhood.
Again I'm torn, unable to firmly put my support behind any candidate. What a disappointment.

I'm still collecting testimonials from passengers, in the event I get mailed a new summons with correct dates, which is completely possible at any time. Here's the latest one I've been blessed with:

"It was great riding with you on Saturday. Not only were you courteous and informative but your driving was delightful. My return trip with a different driver cost me almost twice as much and was jerky and uncomfortable. So it reminded me just how special of a trip I had with you in your cab. Thank you for a terrific experience." -Mardy Pilot

To win the fight against millionaire garages/brokers, NYTWA needs your help. Send in your
$100 membership dues today and make the union stronger. In return, get great benefits– lawyers for all tickets, free representation in cases against garages/brokers, free $5,000 term life insurance & more.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I'm crossing town on West 57th at 4:30 P.M. Doors are locked. Backseat is empty. I must have the cab back at the base (in Greenpoint) by 5:00, for the night shift switchover. I can't help but empathize with folks who are stranded on the roadside, trying to make their way home after a long workday. I decelerate past each hailing body, just enough to holler "where to?", through the window. If their response is above 72nd or below 42nd, my answer is an apologetic, yet assertive and distinctly audible, "sorry but I'm eastbound into Queens right now."

Approaching Eight Avenue there was a man in a suit going to 63rd and Broadway. Slightly out of the way, but very doable! Right after that fare, a woman at Columbus Circle requested 58th and Lexington. Precisely on my path to the bridge! That's $7 and $9. An extra $16 towards gas and two very happy campers who saved a fortune of time on their reverse commute. Negotiating does work, and not just for the hack. There is no need for the city to find itself paralyzed between 4 and 5 each afternoon. There is, however, a need for all parties involved to be flexible and compassionate, including the TLC in the rare event someone accuses us of refusal.

OFTEN ASKED BY THE PASSENGERS: Upon dropping that previously mentioned suit man off near Lincoln Center, he asked me how he'd get down to Ludlow and Rivington around 5 PM, if catching a cab was too hard? "Just jump on the downtown B or D train, at Columbus Circle, and transfer to the F at Times Square. Exit at 2nd Avenue and walk east/south". My advice was free and enthusiastically given, with the help of the miniature subway inset on my laminated street map. And I had done him the favor of taking him the 8 blocks out of my way, off-duty light lit, and Queens-bound. He returned it by tipping over 20%. What a symbiosis!

Another question, asked earlier in the shift, was by a pregnant lady headed home, which happened to be across the street from Roosevelt Hospital on W59. She was headed home from work (Park Av and 56th). Soon as we pulled away from the curb I had to ask intently whether she was OK with taking 57th, but she was intent on using Central Park South, which we got stuck in for a quarter hour, along with all the horse carriages and tour buses. She admitted we should have taken my route. Westbound on 57th is piece of cake in the afternoon, as opposed to the mornings. People get bad taxi experiences eternally stuck in their head and fail to realize that not only does every part of the day have differing traffic patterns, but also not all hacks are inept.

She became very trusting and talkative half way through the ride, and asked me what she should tell the cabdriver who would be destined to take her when she goes into labor. Ironically, even though she lives across the street from the hospital where John Lennon was rushed, the plan is nonetheless to give birth at NYPH, on the other side of town. Her question was, should I simply just tell the taxi driver to take me to New York Presbyterian Hospital?"

Absolutely not! There's a reason why the reputation of cabdrivers has fallen through every possible crack in this city. You must say 68th and York Avenue. Otherwise, you might confuse the hell out of them. I've heard you can even do that by merely asking for the Empire State Building or the Staten Island Ferry.

Could you take a picture of us sitting in the back, once we pull into the airport? This time I happened to be the one suggesting it, and I was forthright with my motive of sharing it on my blog. This lovely couple visiting from Atlanta and I had an uncommonly refreshing, mutually uplifting conversation all the way out there, about a wide range of things: their lifelong love of New York from afar, their intense solidarity with taxi drivers (especially NY Yellow) and other working class people, their right to bear arms, my right to arm bears, and so many others issues.

Another question that could be asked, and in fact was asked by both hack and passenger earlier in the shift is,
"what the hell kind of cow looks like that ?" (referring to the middle photograph above) I guess you'd have to call that number. Neither of us could explain why the lump on the left was bigger than the one on the right. Can you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


My friend pointed out a fascinating website to me. It's not necessarily hack-related, but it's a look into the human soul of NYC. I'm enamored by these people's deep connection to their (our) city. Haven't found any cabdrivers on it thus far. Would not that be grand? She said I ought to be featured on it. That would be neat.

Monday, October 19, 2009

MORE TESTIMONIALS: extension of the last post

To Whom It May Concern

I am writing to let you know that Gil Avineri picked my husband, myself and our baby up last week to go to LaGuardia Airport.

He was so helpful in getting us settled in the car with the baby and carseat, helped us with our luggage, and was extremely courteous. He was the best taxi driver I think I ever had in NYC and I have lived here all of my life. He was a careful driver, had pleasant conversation and was very interesting.
Most of all, it was raining and he drove very carefully and made me feel very safe, which is often NOT the case in a taxi.
I would recommend him for whatever you need.
Thank you.

Risa Morley-Medina


To whom it may concern:

I entered Gil Avineri’s taxi yesterday afternoon (10/14/09) for a ride from 37th Street & Fifth Avenue down to Bond Street. He drove safely, and properly, and got me there in perfect fashion. He was also quite polite, and professional. I wish all cab driver’s were like that.
Adam Wolfson

Wolfson Insurance Brokerage, Inc.
9 East 37th Street (4th Floor)
New York, NY 10016

Dear Sir,
I had a very enjoyable cab ride this morning. Gil is very professional and might be the best cab driver I have ever had.

Matthew Somers 917 364 2344


It was a pleasure riding in your Taxi this morning. Even though the weather conditions were poor, I was able to comfortably read my blackberry because of your measured and steady driving.


To whom it may concern:

Just wanted to say what a pleasant cab ride I had today with Mr. Gil
Avineri. He picked me up in Brooklyn and took me to La Guardia
airport. Not only did he drive safely and courteously, but he even
pointed out different NY spots of interest along the way. He was very
polite as well. If I could call ahead for a specific cab driver I'd
call for Gil!
Liz Harris

great driver, very friendly and knowledgeable of the area!
Tamecia Williams

I am endlessly impressed by the amounts of professionalism and pride you take in your work. Your courtesy, eagerness, and precision are unparalleled, even compared to cabbies who have been at it for decades. Your predilection towards geography and cartography are what propel you from a great cabbie into a SuperCabbie. Your knowledge of places and the efficient routes between them should be a shining example for all cabdrivers. I hope NYC never loses you to London, where skillful drivers are the rule, and are respectfully appreciated.
-Jenine Bressner

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


TO THOSE WHO'VE BEEN PASSENGERS OF MY TAXICAB: To my absolute dismay, I have a court date at TLC on the 26th of this month. It involves having accrued over 6 points on my DMV license during a 15 month period. But they're counting back from what was my last violation date: January 08. I'm being punished for minor infractions, 80% of which occurred during my first year on the taxi force: 2006/07.

I've never been a dangerous, nor careless driver. I simply had the naivety to think I could bend certain rules, safely, while fulfilling my duty as an efficient/effective form of transportation when subways, buses, and private cars don't quite cut it. It was an assumption born of the same slack granted to other professional drivers who serve the city: garbage and delivery trucks, bus drivers, etc.. But it turns out we're not in the same league, not as essential to the public? Instead we're easy prey for cheap shots aimed at increasing city revenue.

So I'm asking anyone who has riden in my cab to send a brief testimonial of your experience to my email address: Include as much contact info as you can (for credibility), state your profession/role in society, and try to mention things you noticed about the ride and/or driver (me) that were uncommon (beyond the call of duty). There is usually at least one, if not several, every fare. Do I sound full of myself? I'm only being honest because trying my best to provide excellent service is ingrained in me. I will collect all the testimonials into a print out to show the judge. Please help me save my taxi license from being revoked. I sincerely and adamantly believe that the citizens and guests of New York do not deserve to lose one of their best cabbies.

I always treat each and every fare as if it were ME in the backseat. I go above and beyond in my fulfillment of the taxicab riders bill of rights. I never fail to use hazard lights in advance of a pick-up or drop-off. I pull over as close to the curb as possible. I always choose one side of the avenue to comb for fares and never tear across lanes. I gently attempt to interact with everyone, especially tourists, to give them a good impression of our city, and because I care deeply about our reputation as cabdrivers. I always jump out to help load and unload trunk cargo, and hold the car door for elders and handicaps.

I carry a list of daily street closures and keep tuned to the radio traffic reports in order to avoid getting my fares stuck in jams. I know every street below Houston and in the village maze. I have on-the-spot directions (natural born mental GPS) to all the city's landmarks and knowledge of most neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. I carry street maps of Bergen, Nassau, and Westchester counties. This profession is to me more than just a job. It's a labor of love, honor, and service to humanity and to the greatest city on Earth.

An analysis of the points under scrutiny, you might ask? An undercover cop caught me coming to an 'almost' complete stop in Harlem at 5:00 am, upon scouting cautiously 360 degrees. Then I got another 'disobeyed traffic device' for using the bus lane to go around a double parked delivery truck in SoHo. Then I got a 'passed red light' for being the last one in a caravan of turning vehicles on the tail end of a green left turn arrow. I'm sorry but that is not what you'd call 'running a red'.

And to complete my assessment of the points being scrutinized, yet another 'disobeyed traffic device' for making a left turn unto Crescent Street shortly after 7 am, in an attempt to please passengers who were real late to a business meeting in Manhattan from a delayed flight arrival at La Guardia. The traffic on Astoria Blvd. was severely backed up and this move would have saved us a good quarter hour, but instead it might end up costing me my taxi license. Where is the fairness?

Thus far I have received two testimonials, out of the two dozen passengers who enthusiastically agreed to send one in since I started asking at the end of each immaculate fare since this past weekend. Please don't forget about me. This city is running the risk of losing every last one of its few remaining quality cabbies, due to either unfair summonses or simply just feeling the lack of worthwhile compensation and appreciation. Do you want to have to give the driver directions every time you get into a cab? Or not be able to speak with them because of their insolence?


"to whom it may concern:
on 10/12/09 i rode with Mr Gil Avineri, and had a very pleasant experience. i found him to be polite, helpful, and a courteous driver. at no point did he speed, make me feel unsafe by weaving or aggressive driving, nor take any unnecessary routes.

thank you." -Heather Millstone

506 E. 13th St.
New York, NY 10009

"Hi Gil. Thanks again for today’s great taxi ride. I use NYC Taxis approx 25 times per month and you’re in the top 5 cabbies! Keep up the great work." -Mark J. Liebman

"My buddies had just moved to Brooklyn. We took a cab up to Manhattan to go check out the city. Gil was our cabbie that night. He safely and swiftly gave us a history lesson and quick tour during our journey. He was by far one of the most knowledgeable, safe, and friendly cab drivers I have encountered. I'm from Chicago, and if this is a testament to all New York cabbies, I would seriously considered moving to New York. Just lower the rent."
Dennis Episcopo
Chicago Public School Teacher

"Gil, I just wanted to thank you for a pleasant taxi ride today. Good luck." -Stephen Pineault

ALSO MY PARTNER MADE A VERY GOOD POINT THE OTHER DAY. ONE THAT I'VE SUSPECTED ALL ALONG: "I think a lot of cases like these are coming to court because the city needs the revenue generated by kicking drivers out of the system. This way more people can become drivers (and pay to do so, especially with work options so sparse.) The revoked drivers who wait and re-enter the system also have to pay for their licenses anew." -Jenine Bressner


"It's like a twisted sick video game. I really do believe that they don't know the harm they are doing. positioning themselves in predictable locations and giving predictable tickets. the real criminals will continue to get away with scams and recklessness" -Noah F.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I'll testify that many of these pedicab peddlers are outright jerks and very full of themselves. However, I have a respect for all cyclists, whether on bicycles or tricycles. I believe that as utilizers of the most efficient and downright incredible invention on the planet, they have as much a right to be on the road, if not more so, as do motorists. If a pedicab in front of me is pedaling slower than I wish to drive, it is my duty to safely/swiftly shift lanes and move on. The incessant honking and cursing that the minivan cabbie did in the first place is intolerable. Not to mention everything else both parties engaged in for the remainder of the clip shown down below. Speaking of respect for cyclists, do you ever look in your mirror before making a turn when it involves crossing a bike lane, to see who's there and give them the right of way, since it's harder for them to slow down and speed up?

I DON'T BLAME THIS GUY (video below)
We really do freak people out. But it's not just us. It's the whole city of New York. Daunting. Rabid. Impugning. Browbeating. Bedraggled. Obstreperous. The city that I have always loved with all my being. And the profession that takes it all in. God bless all 40,000 of us.