Anti-trafficking bill gets mayor’s blessing

Anti-trafficking bill gets mayor’s blessing
Sofia a Victim of Sex Trafficking Enters the the city Council hearing in December 2011.
Photo by William Alatriste
By Rebecca Henely

Despite initial resistance, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law sponsored by City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) Friday that would punish drivers using Taxi & Limousine Commission licences who deliver sex-trafficking victims to clients.

Ferreras praised Bloomberg for his change of heart on his radio show, “Live from City Hall with Mayor Mike and John Gambling.” This was the first time the mayor ever signed a bill into law on his weekly show.

“I’m very happy that this is finally happening today,” Ferreras said.

The councilwoman’s bill, Intro 725A, adds a $10,000 fine and revokes the licenses of drivers and base station licenses if they knowingly assist in sex trafficking. The bill’s numerous co-sponsors included most of Queens’ Council members, both Democratic and Republican.

But when the bill came in front of the mayor June 20, Bloomberg did not sign it. He explained on his Friday radio show that he had been concerned over whether or not the bill called upon taxi and livery cab drivers to determine whether or not a woman was a prostitute before picking her up.

“I just didn’t understand it,” Bloomberg said. “And I said, I’m not going to sign it today.”

The mayor changed his mind after it was made clear that the bill was only for drivers who actively participated in transporting women to johns.

“I would never want a woman to not be picked up because she’s hailing a cab,” Ferreras said.

The councilwoman also emphasized that most taxi and livery cab drivers were honest and hardworking and the bill was not meant to punish them.

“It really is for unscrupulous drivers who hide behind the license,” she said.

Ferreras said on the show that girls as young as 12 are delivered to multiple johns on a single night by these taxi drivers.

“It is a very big problem,” she said, “so all we need is a couple of bad apples to really ruin the lives of young girls.”

Sex trafficking between midtown Manhattan and the Queens neighborhoods of Flushing, Jackson Heights and Corona has been seen in many cases.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), a big advocate for the bill, praised Bloomberg in a statement for finally approving it.

“The mayor’s signature on this bill sends a message to the 4,000 minors who are brought to New York City every year as victims of sex trafficking that we are doing something to help them escape from a life of despair,” Quinn said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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