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Idling livery cabs target of Flushing crackdown

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Flushing car services beware. If any of your livery drivers are found cruising the streets of the downtown area or idling in a municipal parking lot, they are liable to be caught on film or tape and reported to the city Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7, and John Watts, a representative for City Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing), said that starting this week, they were going to be out gathering visual evidence against livery drivers who they claim are breaking the rules of their licenses.

The pair of Flushing officials have accused the drivers of motoring through the streets of downtown Flushing like yellow cabs in search of passengers getting off the No. 7 subway line on Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

Allan Fromberg, deputy commissioner for public affairs with the city TLC, confirmed that livery drivers are not allowed to accept or to solicit street hails.

"The problem is they're driving traffic to a halt in the downtown area," said Watts, who walks through the area on a regular basis. "They're cruising at a very slow speed so buses can't get through."

"Livery service must be through prearrangement only," Fromberg said.

Bitterman and Watts also claimed the livery cabs take up spaces in local municipal lots, waiting for calls to pick up passengers, but do not pay for their time.

Fromberg said a City Council regulation requires livery cab bases to have off street parking where drivers are to wait for calls.

"They clean their cars, they litter all over and just sit there," Watts said.

Fromberg said the TLC looked forward to viewing the results of Bitterman's and Watts' surveillance.

"We have worked very closely with elected officials and communities in addressing issues like these, so of course we'll be receptive to hearing their concerns," Fromberg said.

He could not give details on how drivers might be penalized if found guilty of the alleged violations, but noted that bases are held accountable for their employees' actions.

The TLC licenses almost 600 livery cab services throughout the city, and several in Queens.

Besides the yellow medallion taxis and livery cabs, TLC also oversees the upscale black car services and luxury limousine, commuter or "dollar" van and ambulette services.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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