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COMMISSIONER'S COLUMN

November 2010

Lots to talk about this month, not the least of which is the fact that, since we last spoke, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has moved to charge 59 taxicab drivers with varying levels of criminal violations as an outgrowth of the infamous Rate Code 4 debacle.

As I’ve said from virtually day one of my young tenure as TLC Commissioner and Chair, I believe strongly that the vast majority of the city’s near-49,000 taxicab drivers do their jobs remarkably -- even inspirationally -- well.  It’s a hard job….sometimes monotonous, often lonely, with drivers dealing with dozens of people who sometimes are not having a good day and have no problem with taking it out on them.  The hours are long, the pay is hard-earned, and the perks few and far between.  Despite this, taxicab drivers are really the unsung heroes of our city…..going to heroic lengths to return people’s lost property, and sometimes, in several well-documented cases, even putting themselves in harm’s way to fight crime.

All that having been said, a not-insignificant number of taxicab drivers had the poor judgment to make use of a setting on their meter that doubles the fare for trips to Nassau or Westchester Counties, during trips within the city limits.  Some of them did it a few times, and chalked it up to a mistake.  Some others did it a few more times, and we gave them an opportunity to show remorse for their actions with carefully considered penalties.  But yes, there were those whose actions were downright criminal, and the DA’s Office will do its best to make sure these individuals own up to what they did.

To be sure, there’s still more to do with regard to getting to the bottom of the Rate Code 4 situation, but I did want to take a moment to share a perspective with you.  While some people see the DA’s charges as signaling the end of a painful period for the taxicab industry, I frankly see it as more of a beginning.  It’s the beginning of an opportunity to redouble our efforts to show the public that the taxicab industry is still worthy of their trust, their respect, and perhaps most importantly from a practical standpoint – worthy of their hard-earned dollars.

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I also wanted to take a moment to mention the bittersweet news that the TLC’s immensely talented Ira J. Goldstein will be leaving his position as Assistant Commissioner for Technology Development for an opportunity to succeed Victor Dizengoff as Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund.  I think the real revelation here is that, after years of exploring the possibility of retiring, Victor felt so comfortable in the naming of his successor that he has wholeheartedly embraced retirement in the knowledge that the organization he has built from the ground up is in the most capable hands possible.

And specifically about those hands, I want to say a very public thank you to Ira for his tireless efforts on behalf of the TLC.  His remarkable journey in bringing the taxi technology project from its conception in 2004 to 100% implementation in November 2008, and beyond, has been the stuff of legend in government, and was memorialized in the City’s technology agency awarding him its highest honor in technology project management.  Ira’s intelligence, his expertise, his integrity and work ethic, will all be sorely missed by myself and his colleagues at the TLC, but no more so than we will miss his sense of humor and his kindness.

Best of luck, Ira…..thanks for everything!

While he has already moved with his growing family to that enchanted land known as Orlando, Florida, I also wanted to take a moment to thank our longtime staff attorney Marc Hardekopf for his stellar decade-long tenure.  Marc has seen some of the most fascinating (to be kind) cases in the TLC’s history cross his desk, and as a prosecuting attorney, he has approached them all with equal parts of jurisprudence, knowledge, intelligence and a true desire to see justice done.

Bravo and well done, Marc!  Thanks for all you’ve done on behalf of our city and its people.

Until next time, I wish you all a happy, safe and prosperous autumn!

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