Soon, They Will Give You A Fine For Being Ugly
Oct. 2, 2002.
By José L. Llanes
Yesterday morale dipped to a new low at the "First Class"
taxi service office in Washington Heights.
Mayor Michael Bloombergs new fines for transit and parking
violations are now twice as expensive. Taxi drivers, business owners
and traffic enforcers feel defeated.
"We are worried," explained taxi driver Julio Adame,
surrounded by some colleagues, "we thought these new fines
were nothing but rumors, but now it is for real."
Starting yesterday, Adame and his friends will have to pay a $105
fine if they are caught in front of a building waiting for a passenger,
or buying a coffee in a bodega.
Five transit violations were disproportionately raised to $105:
parking in front of a hydrant, on top of the sidewalk, in front
of a bus stop, in a bridge or tunnel, and double parking.
"The poor are always the ones that are harmed. The rich dont
have to work in the street or double park," said Adame.
The measures are part of a plan to balance the citys budget
deficit and are not the only ones. Yesterday the mayor announced
that from October 15, ten midtown streets will become express lanes
during week days, "to make streets faster and secure."
For the owner of "Elsa, The Queen of the Chicharrón
[fried pork rind]," a store at Broadway and Academy, the measures
will take away clients that make a quick stop to take a chicharrón
on the fly. "With that pressure people are stressed. This is
bad for business," said Elsa Rodriguez.
People from the traffic enforcement agency are also worried, but
about a different problem. Its members, grouped in the local union
1182, fear that people will become more aggressive. "This has
never been an easy job. 96 percent of our workers are black, Hispanic
and other non-white minorities. 50 percent are women. We work 24
hours, 7 days a week in any neighborhood at any circumstance, without
any type of protection," said Robert Cessar from the local
1182. "We have to protect ourselves against attacks from the
people, terrorism and help during emergencies. However to harass
one of us does not constitute a felony."
For Manuel Araujo, another taxi driver, "this is abusive.
All our profits will go to pay tickets. That shows they want to
snatch pennies from poor people. They should get the money from
the rich, they are the ones that have it. It seems like they will
give you a ticket for being ugly next."
Víctor Feliciano, a driver from the Kennedy base, added:
"Im not saying that the fines are not expensive, but
I think they should create more parking space at low fares, so we
could have an option. This is not only a business, we also serve
Translated from Spanish by Jonathan Charnay
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