Nassau County lawmakers created a new taxi and limousine commission that will be tasked with cracking down on the proliferation of illegal cabs and app-based ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft.
County legislators voted 17-2 Monday to approve County Executive Ed Mangano’s plan to create the new department, which the administration said was needed to more efficiently investigate allegations of taxi regulation violations amid the influx of new, largely unregulated cabbies.
“To have somebody that’s devoted to just look at this field…we just believe it’s a much better way to go,” Rob Walker, Mangano’s chief deputy, told the legislature last month.
That’s because under the current system, the one and ½ workers in the county Office of Consumer Affairs—the agency that also enforces a laundry list of local business laws—are ill-equipped to properly follow up on taxi and limo complaints.
The newly created department—which, similar to the consumer affairs department, the administration expects will be self-funded through fines and registration fees—will have a commissioner, deputy commissioner, two aides and 10 investigators.
Under county law, cabbies can be fined for driving taxis that are not registered, uninsured, unsafe or otherwise not in compliance with the 25-page rules and regulations covering the for-hire vehicle industry. Authorities can also conduct stings and seize scofflaws’ cabs.
Suffolk County similarly created a taxi and limo commission in June. App-based ride-share services that rely on freelance drivers using their own cars have been coming under fire nationwide from taxi drivers that argue such start-ups are unsafe and undercutting their business.
Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) and Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) voted against the Nassau proposal, questioning the estimated start-up cost, projected revenue and need for another layer of bureaucracy.
Locally based taxi company operators expressed support for the bill at the legislature’s Nov. 17 meeting, when the proposal was tabled in order to add an amendment setting five-year term limits for the nine volunteer commissioners that will oversee and set policy for the agency.
“There are more illegal taxis in the Village of Hempstead than there are legal taxis,” Larry Blessinger, president of the Nassau Taxi Owners Association, told the legislature. He said that aside from lost revenue, the issue is a matter of public safety, since insurance companies can deny claims to accident victims involved in collisions with illegal cabs.
An Uber representative did not respond to a request for comment. Uber’s fare for a 15-mile, 25-minute ride from Mangano’s office at the Nassau County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola to his hometown of Bethpage is estimated from $32 to $43, depending upon traffic and weather, when using UberX, the cheapest service available. All Island Taxi of Mineola charges $35 for the same trip.