Press Release Article


Date: Nov 24, 2009
Press Release Number: 149-2009

New Legislation Signed by Governor Paterson Toughens Penalties For Unlawfully Soliciting Ground Transportation at the Airports

The Port Authority today announced that a joint crackdown on unlicensed taxi drivers who hustle passengers at New York City’s two major airports resulted in the arrest of 18 people charged with illegal solicitation of ground transportation.

The crackdown, conducted by the Port Authority Police, the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, follows New York Governor David A. Paterson’s signing of a bill last month that increased penalties for unlawfully soliciting ground transportation at an airport.  The bill increased the penalty from a violation to a Class B Misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,250.

During the crackdown, conducted on November 23 on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, one of the individuals arrested had been arrested on 12 previous occasions between 1986 and 2006 on a total of 23 charges, including 14 felonies.  Another individual attempted to elude police and in the process, injured a Port Authority Police officer prior to his arrest.

Governor David A. Paterson said, “I would like to thank the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and the Queens District Attorney’s Office for highlighting this important new law.  I would also like to commend Senator Dilan and Assemblyman Aubry for their work in passing this bill and their dedication to the safety of their constituents.  While it was already illegal to solicit passengers at airports without a license, the law on the books meant relatively small fines that were not enough to deter this practice.  The bill I signed last month makes this unlawful solicitation a class B misdemeanor - beginning with the first offense - meaning fines upwards of $500 and possible jail time. With an effective penalty, law enforcement officials will now be able to address the problems presented by fraudulent drivers at airports more effectively.  It will help ensure the safety of the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors to our State who take ground transportation from our airports each year.”

Port Authority Chairman Anthony R. Coscia said, “Last night’s arrests are one part of the Port Authority’s effort to remove taxi hustlers from our airports.  With the new law in place, our enforcement has increased and taxi hustlers should be forewarned: this is the end of the road.”

Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said, “This effort marks an aggressive Port Authority strategy to rid our airports of taxi hustlers and improve the safety and quality of life at our airports.  It cracks down on taxi hustlers who are not only potentially dangerous, but often lack proper insurance and charge customers exorbitant rates.  I want to thank Governor Paterson, Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, state Senator Martin Dilan, Queens District Attorney Brown and all of our community partners who helped push through this law.”

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, “I commend Governor Paterson and the State Legislature - particularly Senator Martin Marlav Dilan and Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, the bill’s sponsors - for their efforts in helping to curtail illegal - and often times overly aggressive - solicitation of passengers at our airports.  For too long, unregulated taxis and unscrupulous drivers - who are not properly licensed or who do not carry appropriate insurance - have put passengers at serious risk.  This legislation should go a long way toward putting an end to the days when airport hustlers accepted paying a minimal fine simply as a cost of doing business.

“Each year, more than seventy million passengers travel through JFK and LaGuardia Airports - many of whom are visitors from other states and countries and are unaware of ground transportation options when they arrive at the terminal,” District Attorney Brown said.  “Often, these passengers are unfamiliar with New York prices and/or U.S. currency and, as a result, are charged exorbitant fees to be driven even the shortest of distances.  As tourism, one of New York’s most revenue-producing industries, continues to grow, it is vitally important to our economic health that we provide a safe and welcoming environment at our airports.”

Taxi and Limousine Commissioner/Chairman Matthew W. Daus said, “Our enforcement actions have amply illustrated the value of the recent anti-hustling legislation in protecting arriving travelers from predatory illegal for-hire operators.  As we had anticipated when we worked together with the taxicab and for-hire industries for the law’s passage, passengers are safer today because of it, and legitimate operators enjoy a level playing field.  Airport hustlers now know that they will face prosecution to the fullest extent of a law with provisions that have true and meaningful repercussions.”

Following are two recent airport hustling cases that highlighted the need to elevate the penalty for unlicensed taxi drivers who solicit unwitting passengers at the airports:

  • On November 19, 2009, Garret C. Smith, 53, of Conyers, Georgia, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, a Class D felony, and admitted that, on January 6, 2009, he was at the International Arrivals Terminal at JFK Airport and illegally soliciting taxi passengers.  Smith further admitted that when Port Authority Police Officer Jamie Alexandersen approached to arrest him, he (Smith) fell to the ground, taking Officer Alexandersen with him and causing Officer Alexandersen to sustain a line of duty injury - a torn ligament to his knee - which has kept him out of work since the incident.  Smith is to be sentenced on January 28, 2010, at which time he is expected to be sentenced to five months in jail, five years’ probation and ordered to enroll in a counseling program.           

  •  In June 2009, Khaalif Preacher, 27, of 1384 Pacific Street, and Ian L. McFarlane, 57, of 285 East 35th Street, both of Brooklyn, were charged with steering five unsuspecting French tourists to their unauthorized van service outside JFK’s Air France terminal and then holding them against their will as the van raced approximately seven miles through sections of Queens and Brooklyn in an attempt to escape pursuing police vehicles.  The tourists’ harrowing journey began when Port Authority police officers attempted to cite the defendants for “hustling” passengers at the airport. Preacher pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless endangerment, a Class D felony, on October 8, 2009, and is expected to be sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation when he is sentenced on December 3, 2009.  The case against McFarlane is presently pending trial.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

John Kelly, 212 435-7777

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates many of the busiest and most important transportation links in the region. They include John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, Stewart International and Teterboro airports; AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark; the George Washington Bridge and Bus Station; the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the three bridges between Staten Island and New Jersey; the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rapid-transit system; Port Newark; the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal; the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island; the Port Authority Auto Marine Terminal; the Brooklyn Piers/Red Hook Container Terminal; and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. The agency also owns the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan and is a partner in the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel project.

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