NYC Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights AKA Anger Makes an Activist

I’ve had two bad taxi experiences in one weekend. One incident made me furiously angry, which was kind of embarrassing in front of my friends. But I have decided that instead of holding on to my anger and getting angry in the future I am now going to be an activist. I have decided to inform my friends and others about the Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights and now refuse to tip drivers who violate these rights. I will also immediately report violations of these rights, and encourage others to do the same.  To submit a complaint, use this online form, or call 311 or from a non-NYC cellphone, dial (212) 639-9675.

Our rights:

As a taxi rider, you have the right to:
Pay for your ride with credit/debit card;
Go to any destination in NYC, Westchester, Nassau, or Newark Airport;
Direct the route taken: The most direct route or one of your choice;
A safe and courteous driver who obeys all traffic laws;
A knowledgeable driver who speaks English and knows City geography;
Air conditioning or heat on request;
A noise free trip: no horn honking or radio;
Clean air. smoke and scent free air;
Working seatbelts for all passengers;
A clean taxicab: interior, exterior and partition;
Be accompanied by a service animal;
A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hand-held or hands free);
Decline to tip for poor service.

If you feel your rights were violated by a taxicab driver please Submit a Consumer Complaint.

Now for the details of what happened to me:

Incident 1: I was coming home last night from a party, and a friend and I decided to share a cab since we were on the far east side and it was raining. We first dropped off my friend in Chinatown then headed toward my place in Lower Manhattan. We arrived at my street, but the cab driver refused to actually cross the traffic light to drop me off in front of my building, even though it was pouring rain. I got out and ran across the street. I still tipped the driver a dollar for a 10 buck fare, but in retrospect (now that I know my rights, and in light of incident 2 below), I am now going on a tipping strike against bad service and violations against the NYC Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights.  In extreme cases, like in incident two, I will immediately document the driver’s information by taking a photo of their license info and report him to the city.

Incident 2:  I was with some friends tonight in Battery Park City, trying to get a cab in the pouring rain.  The five of us finally hailed a cab.  I got in first and asked the driver if it was ok for him to take five of us.  He said no, but some of my friends didn’t hear and got in anyway.  He then  repeated that he wouldn’t take five people.  Fair enough, I guess those are the rules.  So three of my friends got out to wait for another cab.  That would have been fine, but instead the cab driver started yelling at me about how he wouldn’t take the remaining two of us because we still got in despite him saying he wouldn’t take five people.  I said that my friends didn’t hear what he said to me at first, and that in any case, I don’t control what my friends do.  He raised his voice at me and refused to take us to our destination, despite the fact that there were only two of us left in the cab, which made me lose my temper, make a scene and storm out of the cab.  If this ever happens again, I would immediately document his license information and report him instead of getting angry.

Anyone at ITP want to help with making an NYC taxicab consumer complaint iPhone app? I think it would be a great consumer resource and would help in streamlining the submission of complaints.  Anybody else have NYC cab horror stories to share?

Tenement Talks

I started my internship at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum this week.  On my first day, I had the opportunity to go on a couple tours of the historic 97 Orchard Street tenement building to learn more about the Museum and the history of immigration to the Lower East Side.  I will be mainly focusing on producing podcasts of the Museum’s Tenement Talks lecture series.  Last night’s Tenement talk was a conversation moderated by Robert Sullivan (author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants) with Eric Sanderson (author of Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City) and Douglas Hunter (author of Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World).  I hope to have the audio recording online soon.  Stay tuned, the audio will be available here.

LS & JC at The Tank

JC Cassis performing at The Tank

JC Cassis and I performed at The Tank on Wednesday as part of the three-day ITPalooza music festival.  We played our dance-pop songs to an intimate crowd and managed to get rock the house despite all the technical difficulties.  I also got to see my friend Natasha from Arizona who came to the show.  We hadn’t seen each other since high school!  Thanks to Mike Rosenthal for the space and to Roy Vanegas for organizing the whole thing, as well as to everybody who came out to support us.

Here’s our set list from Wednesday night (click on the links to hear/download recorded versions):

leesean and jc perform at the tank

ls & jc 2

Photos by Catherine White
Update: view video of our performance here. Thanks to Milena Mepris for the video.

Wild Turkey in New Amsterdam

Wild Turkey in Battery Park

Last week, Kris and I followed the New Amsterdam Trail, an official tour of the National Park Service created by the Harbor Conservancy in partnership with the Henry Hudson 400 Foundation.  Download the free tour files here, then put the MP3s on your MP3 player and print out the PDF map.  The 90-minute self-guided tour of Lower Manhattan starts in Battery Park and ends on Wall Street and tells the story of the early days of New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony that would become New York City.  Honestly, not much remains to see from those old Dutch days, but I would recommend doing the tour anyway to hear some fascinating stories of the early history of the City.  In any case, it’s a good excuse to stop for an al fresco snack and a drink on Stone Street.

Then there is the unexpected.  We saw a wild turkey foraging right in the middle of Battery Park!  See, there is definitely more to New York wildlife than just pigeons and rats.  We’ve also spotted a barn owl one night last year in Battery Park City.