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Peekskill Cabbies Fight for 'Livelihoods'

Peekskill taxi owners say proposed insurance liability minimums could put them out of business.

Taxi owner Ramone Fernandez told the Peekskill City Council that a taxi ordinance change they are considering has him and his family scared.

“My kids and my wife are scared because we don’t know if we are going to keep working,” Fernandez told the council of their proposal to mandate owners to pay higher insurance liability rates. “If you do it like that we are going to pay a lot of money…it is too much for us,” he said.

Fernandez and about a dozen taxi owners and other small business owners attended Peekskill’s meeting last night to oppose the proposal. Corporation Counsel Bernis Nelson explained that the city officials are looking to raise the insurance liability fees from the present $25,000/$50,000 minimum to $100,000/$300,000 minimum.

“We recommend to exceed the minimum state requirement because when accidents occur 25 is often not sufficient to cover people affected by an accident. It will protect passengers and pedestrians,” Nelson said.

Taxi drivers told the counsel that the increased liability is unfair, stigmatizes their profession, unduly burdens good drivers, could cost them around $4,000 or more per year and will put their livelihoods in jeopardy. They added that to the taxi ordinance have already cost them hundreds of dollars.

After cab owner Kevin Toohey and two members of the public spoke against the increase Mayor Mary Foster said that the city is considering the increase after hearing reports from people who have been injured, looking at other jurisdictions' rules and after hearing recommendations from staff.

“We have no desire to put small businesses out of business but we are trying to balance the needs of everybody,” Mayor Mary Foster said. Foster also told the crowd that the council has heard from the Peeksill Police Department who has talked to taxi drivers, but Anthony Bazzo, a cab owner, said that the police department has recommended against raising the liability insurance.

Three more cab owners told the council they felt the proposal was unfair before Bazzo, who owns a two-car independent operator business named Atom Taxi, animatedly made several points.

Bazzo said that the higher insurance will actually make taxis less safe, because drivers might have to work longer hours or have to take money from discretionary funding, like repairs, in order to pay the higher rates. He also said that the other changes to the taxi ordinance, which you can read about , have already weeded out bad and irresponsible drivers, making the increased insurance minimum unnecessary.

Paying higher insurance rates for their businesses would also increase their personal auto insurance because paying the higher insurance rates would force them into an assigned risk category, Bazzo said. He added that being forced to pay higher insurance rates would punish him despite his clean driving record.

“What will be is some of those people (cab drivers) going out of business or having to work longer hours," Bazzo said. "What will be is hardship on businesses, on people who have already lost jobs who are looking for new opportunity and working hard at it. A giant hurt for a miniscule problem…there is something so wrong about that."

Priori to Bazzo’s impassioned speech, the corporation counsel had mentioned several cases, namely one in Newburgh, in which the municipalities were granted the right to raise the liability to $100,000/$300,000. After asked by Foster if Newburgh cab owners now pay that liability insurance, Nelson said that city decided not to raise it but had been granted the right to do so.

Cab owner Roy Darcheville and Bazzo both pointed out that Newburgh is a city unlike Peekskill, where only fleet cab companies are allowed to operate.

“In those municipalities the demographics are totally different,” Darcheville said, adding that during hard economic times it is difficult for small businesses to survive even without increased fees.

 “Who are we going to pass the fee to? How are we supposed to survive in this kind of climate?” Darcheville asked.

The council closed the public hearing and the mayor told the audience that they would take comments into consideration and hold another public hearing before passing any resolution that would affect the insurance liability rates.

Once the hearing was closed the taxi owners headed out to get back to their taxis, where clients were waiting in the cold at the because their cabbies were at City Hall fighting for their livelihoods, according to part of Bazzo's speech.

*Editor's Note: Full disclosure - the Anthony Bazzo mentioned in this article is the same who posts his blog on Patch. He is not a Patch employee. If you are interested in blogging on Patch, you can learn how to do so .

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Dan February 28, 2012 at 12:18 PM
They should be made to have as much coverage as possible....Most if not all cabs that I see driving around town don't even follow the laws on the road...Taking a cab in Peekskill is putting your life in danger, may as well get paid well when they crash.
Frank J February 28, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I think the needs of the public have to come before the needs of the cab companies. No one wants to see them put out of business but regulations are pretty lax in Peekskill compared to other jurisdictions. In NYC, cabs cannot be more than two years old, are inspected three times a year and need special equipment installed like meters, gps and credit card readers. Right now, I carry more insurance on my private vehicles than they do on their cabs and that doesn't seem quite right.
Warwick Deeping, Borzoi February 28, 2012 at 04:34 PM
If you banish the Bazz, you banish the world! Why does Scary Mary hate taxi drivers and Abraham Lincoln? How come Bernis the Furnace doesn't call out the lack of humanity to hacks?
Exlege Jones February 28, 2012 at 05:38 PM
This is ridiculous. 50K is way to low to cover the damage that a car can do. Even 300K is not enough if somebody get permanently disabled. Besides, these costs are deductible as an ordinary business expense. If you are not making enough as a driver to pay the difference, you probably should find other work anyway.
Praetell Boch February 28, 2012 at 07:27 PM
One of the best Common Council meetings ever. Bazzo giving a great oration against the rise in hack insurance. Gesturing like Cicero in the Roman Senate. You had George Ondek in there with his talking duck, the duck eventually being removed for disruption of proceedings. You had Ms. Allen in there laying into “Doodles” Bennett, Queen Mary and TUMOLO! Darrell coming in strong with documentary evidence of the lawsuit against Phipps, contradicting Mary’s assertions to the contrary. Darrell calling the corporation counsel “Sis”. “I’m not a sis!” “Don’t get touchy, I know you’re not a sis!” Darrell silenced by the cops. Mary: "Your time is up." Darrell: "YOUR time is up!" Rigger screaming out a resolution (why do all new council members scream out resolutions? Silent Patty did the same thing.). Torres mispronouncing every other word. One for the ages.
craig February 28, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Maybe they can slowly increase the insurance requirements over the next few years.They are already feeling the squeeze of higher gas prices.
Peter Goodson February 28, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Claxton must not have a family member in the taxi business or else she wouldn't support this.
Liz Claire February 29, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Bazzo can't have it both ways. Either the government should not regulate taxis at all which will increase competition and hurt his business, something he's complained about in the past. Or a taxi driver should be required to have higher than average insurance, since he or she is on the road all day. Most of us who drive far fewer miles per year than Bazzo pay for liability insurance that far exceeds what the City is proposing taxi drivers pay. More importantly, any small business looking to open in Peekskill learns that landlords in Peekskill require higher business liability insurance as a precondition for renting a building than what Bazzo is complaining about. So his complaint about the costs of doing business is essentially a request to get preferential treatment from people like Darren Rigger whom he and Bruce Apar put in office. Bazzo's argument should be to entirely deregulate the taxi industry. The market will shy away from the rickshaw drivers. He seems to want government protection on his own terms. It's not a winning argument. It costs more than $300,000 to get a medallion in NYC, then more costs in liability insurance. Comparatively speaking, Peekskill taxi drivers pay a small fee. Either deregulate the taxi industry in Peekskill or require them to carry the same liability that every homeowner pays for.
Ed Davis February 29, 2012 at 04:05 AM
The statement "Paying higher insurance rates for their businesses would also increase their personal auto insurance because paying the higher insurance rates would force them into an assigned risk category, Bazzo said. He added that being forced to pay higher insurance rates would punish him despite his clean driving record." is nonsense. Cab companies should be happy to better protect their valued customers. Instead they protest. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, don't insist on placing your customers in jeopardy. This protest is ridiculous.
Liz Claire February 29, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Mr. Bazzo seems to be as wrong on this issue as unemployment insurance. Every other business incurs these costs. He complains. Why is he so special he should get special treatment. Everyone knows he supported Darren Rigger and the Dems in an attempt to get special treatment. For someone to liken him to Cicero is ludicrous. He supported the Rigger and the Red Army trying to turn our city into the Citizens Republic of Peeksill. Trotsky is a better analogy than Cicero. Cicero had depth, magnificance, nothing Bazzo has.
Pete LoPresti February 29, 2012 at 04:51 AM
All this publicity of the taxi industry in Peekskill is great. The public should known the rules and regulations and how low the insurance coverage is. The more taxi companies there are, the less trips there are. DANGEROUS: More hours on the road to make up for less trips. Make it so easy and inexpensive to operate, it's only a matter of time, that we'll all read about a disaster on the road and say how could this happen? ANSWER: INADEQUATE INSURANCE. So lets get theTaxi Insurance up to date and have the public riding in safer vehicles. A few more regulations wouldn't hurt either. Concerned Consumer
lisajsalinas February 29, 2012 at 06:41 AM
"Clearance Auto" will give you a break if you buy two or more types of insurance. You may also get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company.
RealTimeRufus February 29, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Cicero also looked better in a toga.
Bob Ogden February 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Bazzo did make one good point at the meeting. He mentioned that aside from the scheduled inspection, the cab industry is pretty much are their own and are trusted to keep there cars in good shape. Perhaps Peekskill should hire a full time hack inspector to do surprise inspections and taxi enforcment. His salary could come out of the proceeds of the fines or simply charge the taxi companies collectively to defer the cost. Bazzo should be happy with that as it will reduce his competition which he also complains about. The responsibility of government is protecting the people, not protecting the cab companies.
John Anderson February 29, 2012 at 04:48 PM
No one talks actual numbers. Fleet operators would pay an additional $2,500- $3,000 per car per year, for an additional policy through American transit or Global on top of their regular policy which is probably $4,500 -$5,000 per car, for a total of (on the high side) $8,000. This increase would cost a fleet operator about $8 more per day, per car. New York city taxis pay about $10,000 per year. Owner operators (persons who drive and own the taxi) can get 100K/300K policy for about $3,500 per year through Novello. Middletown has the same type of law and there are more than enough taxis doing plenty of calls. I'm sure the average peekskill taxi does more than 8 local calls per day, so adding 50 cents to each call would help cover the increase, or perhaps making the $1 fee for each additional passenger $2. The drivers could also add a dollar or two to their out of town trips, peekskill does not regulate those calls. Peekskill also needs to make a "company" show proof of at least 10 cars operating within the company and a signed commercial property (office) lease, enough with these guys trying to dispatch from their cars on a cell phone, it's dangerous and inconvenient for customers. Pass the law Peekskill, they won't go out of business. As a mater of fact, it will get some people off the road who should not be operating a taxi to begin with. Would residents rather be underinsured and get a taxi in 5 minutes, or be insured and wait 15 minutes. I think the latter.
John Anderson February 29, 2012 at 05:34 PM
You are right Pete, Taxi drivers in Tarrytown were up in arms claiming " I'll be put out of business" when Tarrytown decided to turn over the licensing of taxi drivers to the Westchester County Taxi & Limousine Commission . Well, here we are, a few months later and other than a few persons who had terrible driving records, no "papers" to prove citizenship and failing of the drug testing for others, everyone is fine... at $4 fares, as opposed to $6 like in Peekskill. If the city of Peekskill does not pass this, it will show lack of concern for riding passengers. Remember, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. I like my idea of the compnaies having to prove having office space and the prohibiting of "dispatching" from a taxi vehicle. Been there, done that, not good. Got to go shovel.
peekskillman February 29, 2012 at 06:43 PM
when the taxi drivers start adhering to the rules of the road, stop driving like maniacs, park properly instead of double parking, repair their clunking vehicles, dispatch out of a true office and are deemed legal both in citizenship and thru the motor vehicle dept, then I will have more sympathy. Until then, I hope the City goes thru with their committment to put rider's safety ahead of the taxi companies. good idea council.
Anthony J. Bazzo February 29, 2012 at 06:48 PM
It is amazing that people can tell me where I can or can not buy insurance. We are limited to carriers. The names entioned are NOT available to us. One day I will make it my business to start counting other peoles money as they are so intent on counting mine regardless of other expenses I must incure. Our rates are mandated, the entire industry must go through government to do anything. I love the suggestion we stick it to out of towners. The best part is that I would guess most of these posters do not depend on taxis except in an emergency. The comparrison to NYC Taxis is just so rediculous I want to vomit. Bazzo 02/29/12
Monk E. Lopez February 29, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Well said, Bazz. The Monk has your back. The government is a boa constrictor squeezing the life out of true Americans. Whenever I need a cab, I go with the Bazz. The whole idea of compulsory insurance is un-American to begin with. BAZZ FOR MAYOR!
John Q. Public February 29, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Bazzo, Liz has a point. You should be advocating to totally deregulate the taxi industry. Otherwise, explain why you think government has a role and why they should dictate anything.
Bob Ogden February 29, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Bazz, Once again, you've missed the point. This debate isn't about whether or not you can make a profit running a cab company. It's about what's best for the public and what regulations are in place to assure that you have adequate insurance and for that matter, defining what is adequate. I heard you testify at the council the other day and you were unconvincing on the subject. Telling the mayor that more insurance would mean more dangerous drivers just didn't make sense. Tell us why you shouldn't be required to have adequate insurance, not why you don't want to pay the premiums.
Pete LoPresti February 29, 2012 at 09:58 PM
To ALL those concerned. If there were no regulations on taxis, your better off paying a neighbor to drive you around, because they probably have more insurance. But let the insurance company find out your driving somebody and being compensated for it, and those "your in good hands" companies or ANY company will drop you and you'll be responable for there "BILLS" should there be any for an accident. Would you let anybody do electrical work without a LICENSED & INSURED electrician. Same applies for a plumber. Let's face it, WE need profesional drivers with CORRECT LICENSES & INSURANCE. This is a matter of PUBLIC SAFETY.
John Anderson March 01, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Good point Pete, I do think contractors licensed by the county have to carry a certain high limit insurance. What good would having $50K coverage do if you accidentally burn down a house you are working on worth $800K? Does anyone really want to get into a taxi with such small amounts of coverage? In order to have a "taxi" plate, one has to be authorized by a municipality to receive them from the DMV. The question then is, can the city be held liable for contracting with someone or a company, as a taxi, if an accident does occur and coverage is not enough? Seems like every month, a NYC runs someone or a crowd of people over, has the city or NYCTLC ever been sued? Probably not, because the taxis have ENOUGH coverage. Since the subject has had public debate, and perhaps if the city does not add the requirement, one has to wonder if someone does get hurt in a licensed Peekskill taxi, can that person turn around and say, hey, you were warned! I don't think you can sue a governing agency, but that doesn't mean you cause your residents to go through the turmoil of being injured in an underinsured taxi. The Police have no more knowledge or expertise in this industry tham anyone else, I can't beleive they would be against this legislation.

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