No Good Deed Goes Unregulated By The Government.

NY-Cancer-Ride-ROHImagine if you will, volunteering your time to help cancer patients get to and from the hospital. You and others volunteer your time at no charge help others.

Imagine if you will, stopping to pick up a patient who flags you down by waving at you.

Imagine if you will, picking up the patient and as you head to the hospital, you are stopped by a “New York Taxi and Limousine Commission” (TLC) officer, issued a summons, and your car towed, leaving you and the cancer patient stranded for a time.

That is exactly what happened to Yeshaya Liebowitz of New York.

Yeshaya Liebowitz, a 25-year-old volunteer driver for the Borough Park organization Chesed, was pulled over 8:30 a.m. Monday after he appeared to pick up an illegal street hail, the TLC said.

“I said I didn’t pay him anything,” said his passenger, a 54-year-old grandmother traveling to Manhattan for a 9:30 a.m. chemotherapy appointment who declined to give her name. “It’s a volunteer organization.”

Another officer told her they had already written out the summons, and there was nothing they could do, the grandmother added.

“This is his good deed, and he got slapped in the face for it,” she added. “It’s hard for people to understand that people do good. He just did this out of the kindness of his heart.”

Liebowitz was incensed that his 2014 Altima was seized while trying to take two patients to Manhattan hospitals.

“I tried to explain to him that I drive people to the hospital. I don’t do it for money– I pay the tolls, I pay for gas, I pay my time,” he said. “The woman tried to explain to him that she is a cancer patient, and I have to go to the hospital. He just ignored them.”

Courtesy Office of Assemblyman Dov Hikind (Click for larger image.)

Courtesy Office of Assemblyman Dov Hikind
(Click for larger image.)

The TLC said that once the officer wrote the summons, there was nothing the officer could do.

Even assuming that is true, how about not writing the summons to begin with?

The day before this incident, the New York Daily News ran a story from an inspector at the TLC saying that officers were being pressured to issue summons.

The article details cases where inspectors were told to lie when for causes of issuing summons which is an accusation that we cannot prove or disprove. For the case of Yeshaya Liebowitz. this is the part of the article that matters:

Having one passenger sitting in the back seat is not sufficient reason to stop a car, according to the TLC patrol guidelines. Valid reasons for stopping a suspected gypsy cabbie include observing the driver getting paid or seeing a partition between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, or a bogus TLC decal on the windshield.

In short, the inspector who stopped Liebowitz had no cause to stop him whatsoever.

Furthermore, on the summons summons above, the text from the inspector reads:

Driver operating unlicensed vehicle. A T/P/O I observed above driver / owner operating above vehicle picking up 2 vehicles who called a dispatcher to pick them up. I confirmed this with the passengers before car came to pick them up about destination and fare. Above vehicle showed up to location and driver confirmed taking passengers to hospital. Vehicle not duly licensed to operate here in NYC. (emphasis ours.)

That means that before the inspector started writing the summons, the inspector knew from the passengers that there was no fare involved.

In short, not only had the inspector stopped the car contrary to department procedures, they also wrote the summons knowing the driver was not collecting a fare because he had talked to the passengers who told him this was a charity helping cancer patients get to the hospital and there was no fare.

In the end, Liebowitz was able to get his car back and the summons – which carried a $2000 maximum fine – dismissed after involving a local elected official.

I spoke with the deputy at the Taxi and Limousine Commission who acknowledged that this incident was unfortunate,” said Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

“Not only is the agency acting quickly and releasing Mr. Liebowitz’s car, they have also set a meeting at my office to work out a system so these types of unfortunate incidents do not reoccur.”

The TLC characterized the incident as a “misunderstanding.”

That doesn’t fly.

There was no “misunderstanding” when the inspector illegally stopped the car to begin with. There was no “misunderstanding” when the inspector wrote the summons despite knowing that there was no infraction.

Will someone be held accountable for the actions of supervisors which may have driven the inspector to break the guidelines in stopping the car?

Will someone be held accountable for the lies the inspector used to justify the summons?

Will someone be held accountable for Liebowitz having to run around to get his car returned, much less be illegally deprived of its use?

What do you think?

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