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
THIS IS RAJA ON PBS BACK WHEN HE DROVE A CAB:
IN FACT, THE ENTIRE SITE IS AN AWESOME LOOK INTO OUR LIVES
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
AND I LEAVE YOU WITH A MESSAGE FROM THE TAXI WORKERS ALLIANCE:
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.