Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

Mayor's WINS Address
Sunday, November 14, 1999

Hear the Mayor's Message

Prohibiting Discrimination by Taxi Drivers
by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani

Recently, serious concerns have been raised that some New York City cab drivers are discriminating against New Yorkers on the basis of race by refusing to pick people up or treating them differently solely because of the color of their skin.

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has worked very aggressively over the last six years to identify and root out bias or discrimination in the cab industry. We conceived and implemented "Operation Refusal," an intensive undercover effort designed to reduce incidences of drivers refusing to pick up passengers because of their race or background or because of where the passenger asks to be driven.

But now, in light of prevalent concerns that this remains a serious problem, we're going to go further. Cab drivers have a public privilege that allows them to operate their business on our streets. Under no circumstances can we allow them to abuse this privilege by discriminating against the New Yorkers they are supposed to serve.

The excuse that cab drivers used to use at times really doesn't pertain any longer. Six or ten years ago, when the city was at least twice as dangerous, taxi drivers would sometimes use a fear of crime as a rationale or an excuse for why they might not pick up a particular person. Today in New York City, cab drivers are operating under a reasonable degree of safety. There were 197 robberies of cab drivers in 1998, down from 972 in 1991. Over the same period, the city has also become dramatically safer in every other way -- in homicides, drug crime, gun crime, auto theft, and every other major category.

That's why I have directed the New York City Police Department and the Taxi and Limousine Commission to intensify their existing enforcement, particularly focusing on situations of cab drivers who refuse to pick up minority passengers or refuse to take any passenger to their destination. The idea is to send out additional undercover officers to hail cabs -- and when cabbies don't stop or otherwise refuse to do their job in compliance with the law, the officers will fine them, suspend their licenses, and take their cabs to a police precinct until it can be picked up.

The stepped-up enforcement campaign began on Friday morning at 7 a.m. -- and I'll share with you the results between then and the end of that day, because they're quite encouraging. Across the city, 1,761 tests were conducted, and the vast, vast majority of taxis -- 1,750 out of the 1,761 -- passed the test, meaning they stopped for the undercover officer. Only 11 cab drivers did not pass the test. Five of those refused to take the passenger to his or her desired destination, and the other six are classified as apparent bias refusals. We seized the credentials of those 11 cab drivers.

These preliminary results tell us a few things. They indicate that the overwhelming majority of cab drivers are honest, fair, hardworking people who obey the laws. But they also show that we can make real progress by raising awareness and ratcheting up enforcement in this specific area. I hope our efforts will continue to have a deterrent effect in the weeks, and months and the years ahead. We want to make this behavior a thing of the past-or at least significantly, significantly reduce the incidence of this kind of problem. This is Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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