NOVEMBER 2002

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Pretty Soon, They Will Give You A Fine For Being Ugly
From Hoy
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 Bloomberg’s 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 don’t have to work in the street or double park," said Adame.

The measures are part of a plan to balance the city’s 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: "I’m 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 the community."

Translated from Spanish by Jonathan Charnay


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