City seized record 1,000 illegal cabs last month
These unlicensed hacks will drive anything to make a few bucks.
The city seized a record 1,000 illegal cabs last month — including jalopies with busted windshields, broken doors and thick layers of rust, The Post has learned.
One seized junker — a 2002 Lincoln — had a broken front door that was held closed by wrapping the driver’s seat belt through an open window and tying it off. Another heap — a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria — sported a broken windshield, while another — a massively rusted 1998 Mercury Grand Marquis registered in Texas — didn’t have hub caps or a license plate and was missing bolts in all four wheels.
“I don’t even know how these cars are on the road,” said incredulous tow-truck driver Peter Alogni, 33. “Would you get into that?”
The August record beat the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s previous high of 849 in January of this year and the next, 719 in January 1998.
Not all of the confiscated cars were clunkers. The TLC recently seized a Cadillac Escalade, as well as a repainted New Jersey police car a driver was using as a cab.
Some phony cabbies are even shelling out for daily rental cars and putting the wheels to work — leaving rental companies holding the bag if cars are towed. Since a car can be released only to its official owner, businesses like Hertz and Enterprise have to pay impound fees in order to pick up the cars from the TLC lot, according to Williamsburg-based Knights Towing.
The TLC credits its record number of illegal-cab seizures to a March contract signed with Knights Towing which now picks up seized cars from a TLC staging area and impounds them for the agency.
This allows TLC officers, known as the Proudest, to focus on enforcement instead of towing and impounding. Before the deal with Knights, inspectors took seized cars to a Queens lot donated to the TLC in 2012 by a civic philanthropist — or else had to hunt for scarce space at an NYPD tow pound.
“We’re determined to crack down on the illegal-taxi business,” said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.
The TLC added 125 officers to the force last year.
“It’s an important part of our mission to protect the public from potentially unsafe cars,” Yassky added.
Unlike real cabbies, illegal hacks don’t undergo drug testing or criminal-background checks, nor do they purchase for-hire insurance. And TLC-licensed livery cabs are also inspected every four months.
Drivers with illegal cars face steep fines from the TLC, in addition to towing fees. A first-time offense runs $600 plus $185 in tow fees, with a second offense costing $800. If drivers are caught three times or more, the fine increases to $1,000 if they plead guilty — and can go up to $1,500 if they are found guilty following a hearing.
Knights Towing says the enforcement is effective and it’s seeing fewer repeat offenders.
“As the illegal drivers come to understand that the TLC enforcement is real and has teeth, you’ll see the number of illegal drivers drop even further,” Yassky said.