Gurney's Inn
May 03, 2006

Taxi Regulation For Riverhead?

Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy has only been in office for six months, but already, he has introduced legislation that could change the quality of life in town for residents.

Last Thursday, Dunleavy handed out a draft of his proposed legislation to regulate taxicab activities in Riverhead.

According to the draft, the intent of the legislation is to "protect the peace and security of our citizens on the highways in our community."

The draft reads: "History has shown that there is a need for investigation and review of the past conduct of applicants in the interest of promoting public safety and morals, child welfare, economic well-being and highway safety and usage."

It's an issue Dunleavy is passionate about: The councilman campaigned on two issues, taxicab regulation and housing, and he means to keep his promises, he said. In addition to the proposed taxi legislation, Dunleavy is working with Councilman Ed Densieski on a groundbreaking safe housing initiative.

With his new taxicab legislation in hand, Dunleavy said he is attempting to protect the elderly and less advantaged who often ride in taxis.

At a recent work session, Supervisor Phil Cardinale agreed. "Taxis in this town pick up our most vulnerable residents. God knows who the driver might be." As it stands, said Cardinale, the driver "could be Jack the Ripper."

Under the law, it is critical that drivers have proper licenses, are citizens of the United States with a valid Social Security number, and have undergone background checks.

To that end, drivers' fingerprints will be sent to Albany and applicants must submit to annual drug tests, be able to read and write English, be at least 21 years old, and have a proper chauffeurs Class E license. Checks will also be conducted to see if the driver's license has ever been revoked or suspended.

Second, stressed Dunleavy, the code requires all cars to be operational and in good and clean condition.

And, said Dunleavy, fares must be posted so that fair pricing is ensured, and drivers "can't stuff four or five people in a car without a customer's permission."

The new code is a quality of life issue that Dunleavy feels is critical to address. He embarked upon the legislation in January and has conducted research in other municipalities, including the towns of Brookhaven, Babylon, Southampton, Islip, and Port Jefferson, where regulations are already in place.

Dunleavy said he was prompted to pursue the new legislation after witnessing the shabby condition of cabs being driven in town.

"It's not very inviting for people who come here and see cabs with bashed-in rear ends and flat tires," he said. "I don't want Riverhead to look like a dump."

The board is scheduled to review the legislation and review at an upcoming work session, after which a public hearing will be scheduled.

Dunleavy said: "We have to start to somewhere."

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