7/23/2007New York Seizes Cab to Eliminate Free Competition
New York City cab commission seizes a classic taxi because it offered free rides to tourists.
The New York City, New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) last week seized the vehicle belonging to a retired cab driver because he had been offering free rides in his personally owned vehicle. "Taxi Ray" Kottner, 80, had become a legend and a tourist attraction by driving one of the last 1982 Checker Marathon cabs in the city. Without charge, he drove tourists past various historical sites while drawing from his unmatched knowledge of city history to entertain and inform them.
"I'm five years older than the Empire State Building," Kottner pointed out to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist who enjoyed a ride last year.
Even though Kottner offered these non-commercial rides as a private citizen, the taxi commission was angered that he did not have a taxicab medallion. Last month, medallions sold at auction for $527,666. So the commission found a woman who would testify that she offered Kottner a $10 tip to help pay for gas. The commission declared this a "fare" and confiscated Kottner's cab.
Kottner had driven as a fully licensed, professional cab operator for more than sixty years until retiring two years ago. The New York Post quoted representatives of cab driving cartels who complained that the handful of rides Kottner offered in a day was "stealing" from the 13,000 cabs that charge fees in Manhattan.
"The TLC is a corrupt organization that is breaking the law," Kottner told the Post.
The commission charged Kottner $1685 in fees and fines for the release of his cab. Kottner intends to continue offering free rides to tourists.