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Monday, March 16, 2009

WORST CABBY EVER ON THE LOOSE IN NY

Meet Ramez Akladious, the worst - and most dangerous - taxi driver in the city.

He allegedly slashed a passenger with a boxcutter, drove drunk and, to cap it off, hurled ethnic slurs and lunged at a rider - who happened to work for the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Beware: Even though his taxi license was revoked Friday, he still could be rolling on the streets of New York.

Despite several arrests last year - and the fact that he had only a suspended probationary license - Akladious, 26, kept driving.

It wasn't until he crossed the wrong passenger - the TLC operations manager - that he was technically stripped of his cab license.

But even then, he didn't show up at the hearing to hand over his license, a source said. "He just blew it off," a source said.

The TLC worker, Phedra Braxton, who took her case to a city administrative law judge, said Akladious became enraged during a Jan. 5 ride down Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, screaming and cursing at a bicyclist in his way.

She also noticed he did not have his hack license properly displayed.

When she asked him to take her to an ATM - after he told her his credit-card machine wasn't working - he locked all the car doors and threatened to call the cops, Braxton said.

"He grabbed my jacket and bag through the partition window. I said, 'Get off me, what are you doing?' " she said. "He tried to spit on me . . . When I got out and started screaming, he said, 'I should have never picked your black ass up. You black people never pay.'

"Here I am, an employee for the TLC, and all the years I caught cabs, I never had an encounter like that before," Braxton said. "It's unbelievable that people like that are allowed to drive and deal with the public . . . The worst part of this is that he never should have been driving."

She warned that Akladious "will never get a license with the TLC again."

TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus upheld the administrative law judge's recommendation to revoke Akladious' probationary license - he'd never gotten a permanent one - and fine him $4,350.

Akladious never responded to the decision.

Efforts to reach him at home were not successful.

"The [judge] characterized your misconduct in this case as 'serious,' and I agree," Daus wrote Friday. "It is apparent you cannot comport to TLC rules."

Sources noted a check of the driver's credentials should have been done by the company leasing the cab to him. The TLC did not know what company Akladious drove for.

Akladious' arrest record began less than three months after his probationary TLC license was issued.

On May 15, he allegedly assaulted another driver by smashing his side-view mirror, then his face. That incident was followed June 7 by his alleged boxcutter-slashing of a cab rider who accused him of taking an unnecessarily long route, a source said.

On Sept. 22 in Queens, Akladious was arrested for allegedly striking a man in the face.

On Oct. 9 in Manhattan, he was slapped with a charge of DWI.

Friday, March 13, 2009

MTA fare hikes looming unless state Legislature comes to the rescue

Straphangers could get socked with another fare hike next year - an unprecedented third in a row - if the state Legislature doesn't come to the rescue, transit sources revealed Thursday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority projects a $300 million budget gap in 2010 - even if it increases fares by as much as 30% in June and implements sweeping service cuts this spring.

MTA board members have been summoned to an emergency meeting at headquarters this morning to start grappling with the crisis.

The agency had hoped the Legislature would agree to a bailout, including putting tolls on the city's now-free bridges, but no deal has been reached.

Without a pact, double-digit fare hikes and deep service cuts are almost certain this summer. The MTA is ready to set new fares on March 25. A monthly MetroCard, now $81, could rise to $103.

The MTA today will start looking at worse scenarios for 2010 and beyond, sources said.

"I think they are doing the responsible thing," former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch said. "The public has a right to know - and the board has the responsibility to figure out - what kind of system it can operate with the revenues they have. They have to start thinking about shrinking the system."

Ravitch headed a state commission that recommended tolling the city's free East and Harlem River bridges, and enacting an employer-paid payroll tax.

The cash would enable the MTA to scale back fare hikes to 8% and avoid shutting some bus routes and subway lines.

The Ravitch plan also would help fund the MTA's capital program, which pays for day-to-day maintenance, upgrades and system expansion.

With Glenn Blain

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bailed-Out Bankers Still Prefer Cushy Car Service

Paste Linke for a very good video on the recession and black car service. http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/business/Who_Foots_the_Bill_for_Wall_Street_Bankers__New_York.html

Four of the largest American banks received a total of $75 billion in the recent federal bailout, so it's safe to assume they're limiting some of their luxury expenses.
You'd assume otherwise if you spent Thursday in front of the offices of Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. If you'd have done that, you'd have seen suit after suit hopping into black car after black car, hustling off into the evening.

From Battery Park City to Midtown, the locations may have been different, but the scenes were similar. Buses and yellow cabs passed on by as fancier, roomier, more expensive modes of transport were snapped up by bankers in need of a ride to presumably a nice restaurant or a house in the suburbs.

Drivers told News4 that some of the rides were round-trip to and from bars or restaurants, others out to Westchester or Fairfield County at the end of another long day.

"It's not even cool, man," one taxpayer told News4. "They need to get me one."

A train to towns like Greenwich, Scarsdale or Garden City shouldn't cost more than $10, but the nicer cars to the same locations command a fare closer to $90.

Morgan Stanley issued a statement that said employees "are only permitted to use black cars for travel with clients or to client-related events, or if employees work past 9 p.m. in the office."
New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said the banks might want to re-evaluate certain practices.

"When you have the taxpayers' money ... at the end of the day, you have to look at your entire operation and say, 'I need to be ... more responsible,'" he said.

The Voice of Empathy

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