Since my last writing, we commemorated the 12th anniversary of the life-changing events of September 11, 2001. In some ways it feels far away (there are 12-year-old boys and girls for whom 9/11 is “history”), and yet in others it is as a fresh as yesterday. The reason I bring it up today is that I well know that the memory remains quite fresh in the minds of many of our licensees. Of course there were those who were in immediate danger (as were we at the TLC, being just a scant two blocks away from Ground Zero), and there is a fairly well-known photo that depicts a crushed taxicab in the foreground. Others, such as members of the Black Car industry, were deeply impacted by the loss of clientele whose offices were in Zone A. In between those two realities were those who immediately said, “how can we help.” I know a hastily gathered group of taxi, livery, black car and luxury limousine volunteers provided more than 10,000 free rides to victims’ family members and volunteers in the weeks following the tragedy. I know others collected toys, clothing and food for affected families. There were many others who simply looked for any opportunities they could find to send the message that they were active partners in the city’s recovery. Their efforts haven’t been forgotten.
Speaking of long-remembered efforts, I wanted to take a moment to mention this week’s TLC Employee Recognition Day, an event that spotlighted some folks at the TLC who are normally quite comfortable in the background, but who, day-in and day-out provide great service to our licensees. The ceremony honored all those employees who have served the City for 15 years or more, an impressive feat, made all the more significant by the fact that a full 29% of all TLC employees have demonstrated that level of dedication!
For those of you who are social media savvy, I spent an hour the other day doing something called “Ask Me Anything!” on the site Reddit.com, which is a pretty remarkable forum for learning about things we otherwise wouldn’t know about. Two points I want to make about the experience….1) people are voraciously hungry for knowledge about cabs and their drivers, the takeaway from which is that you folks – the ones reading this column – have a VERY important job! People pay attention, and they want to know more about you and what you do! And 2), that my partner in the event (at right in the photo) was Joshua Z. Weinstein, the celebrated filmmaker who recently completed and released a truly insightful documentary about the taxi industry and the people who are its most important element titled “Drivers Wanted.” It focused quite heavily on the daily goings-on at the legendary garage 55 Stan, which, among its community of mechanics, drivers and clerks, was the man himself, New York City’s oldest licensed taxi driver, Johnny “Spider” Footman. Quite rightly, Josh spent a good amount of time talking with Spider, allowing us a rare window into this historic figure who, sadly, left us a few short days ago at the age of 94. It’s available on iTunes, among other places, and I heartily recommend that you take the time to see it. It’s the real deal.
A few more things before I go…..just to keep everyone in the loop, as of the time of my writing, there are 200 Street Hail Liveries plying our boroughs, and they are getting attention! (Interesting column in the Times -- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/nyregion/green-cabs-appear-as-bloomberg-prepares-to-depart.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1379721241-6Ew0Zw/9vPA94X6VigNSOQ). We’ve reached our goal as far as wheelchair accessible Street Hail Livery permits is concerned, and we are picking up the pace, continuing to diligently work our way through the thousands of other requests!
I also wanted to mention that the TLC’s enforcement arm has yet again done itself proud…..the record number of almost 850 illegal livery seizures set last January has been shattered! I am pleased to announce that this August, TLC inspectors seized an incredible 1000+ illegal poachers, taking them off the streets, and out of competition with hardworking taxi and livery drivers. Promise, we’ll keep up the good work!
Last but not least, we’re just a few short weeks from seeing the first Taxi(s) of Tomorrow pick up their first fares! Just like the 600,000 passengers a day you serve, you deserve the safest, most comfortable, finest taxicab ever built….and the time has finally come for you to have it!
Until next time, take care, be well, and drive safely!