A change to the city’s code pertaining to taxi cab licensing was passed unanimously by the Amsterdam Common Council at a meeting Tuesday. The updated law now requires that all taxi cab companies that pick up customers within city limits must obtain a company license, as well as licenses for each of their cars and drivers. Previously, only companies based in the city were required to obtain car and driver licenses.
In March, owners of two different taxi companies based within the city spoke before the council about the issue. Madeline Samson of Yellow Transportation complained that new companies who she said were based in Fulton County and not licensed by the city, had the potential to hurt her business and other established taxi companies in the city. Stacy Sefrin of Community Cab, asked for the council to limit the number of taxi companies in the city to the four established businesses who have been in the city 10 or more years.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting on Tuesday, William Karp, owner and operator of City Cab of Broadalbin, NY, spoke in opposition to the idea of limiting the number of cab companies within the city. Karp claimed he had received numerous complaints about Yellow Transportation and Community Cab and that he was the target of harassment by Sefrin, who he said wanted to put him out of business. Sefrin, who spoke afterward, denied all the claims made by Karp.
David Sowle of Checkered Cab, based in Amsterdam, also spoke against the idea of limiting the number of cab companies. “There’s a lot of work in the city,” said Sowle. “If you limit it to 2-3 companies it would monopolize it. Because before we started seven years ago, the rate was $7 per ride generally in the city, and now it’s at $5, and that’s mainly because of us. So it just goes to show they would just jack the rate to whatever they felt like if you give them that control.”
According to City Clerk Susan Alibozek, there is a currently a license fee of $50 per year for each car, and $25 per year for each driver. Each driver is subject to a background check conducted by the Amsterdam Police Department. The new law adds an additional license for each company. After approving the new law, the council approved a separate resolution setting the fee for the company license at $10 per year. The council did not approve any restrictions on the number of licenses.
According to Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis, the city is allowed to limit the number of vehicle licenses, but not the number of company licenses. In regards to limiting the number of vehicle licenses, DeCusatis said, “I would suggest it would be done only after a rational study of how many cabs are typical operating in a city of our size, otherwise you should leave it unregulated.”
While the new law was approved unanimously, Alderman Richard Leggiero voted no on the resolution setting the new fee. After the meeting, Leggiero said he would like to revisit the issue in order to place limits on the number of taxi cabs.
“What we’re doing is flooding the city,” said Leggiero, “We’re hurting the people who have been established in the city for a long time.”