By Bill Parry
The owner of four taxicab companies, including one based in Sunnyside, is being sued by the state, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Evgeny “Gene” Freidman alledgedly violated taxi drivers’ rights and breached a settlement agreement he reached with the Attorney General in December 2013.
That settlement required Freidman to pay $746,406 in restitution to drivers who were charged rates higher than is legally permissible to lease cabs and medallions – including nearly $115,000 to reimburse drivers for unlawful healthcare fund deductions, as well as $500,000 in fines to the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). As alleged in the suit filed last Thursday, Freidman did not provide proof or accurate information showing that drivers had been fully reimbursed for the healthcare fund portion of the settlement, as was required by the agreement.
Freidman and his companies also failed to comply with provisions of the agreement that required them to cooperate with ongoing compliance monitoring by the Attorney General. Messages left for Freidman at Woodside Management, Inc., located at 49-13 Roosevelt Ave., were not returned.
“The conduct alleged in today’s lawsuit demonstrates a basic disregard for the struggles and rights of hard-working taxicab drivers, as well as for the laws and rules that apply to everyone in the taxi industry,” Schneiderman said. “No one is above the law, and all companies must follow the rules protecting the rights of working New Yorkers.”
As agents for medallion owners, Freidman’s four companies control over 860 medallions out of the total 13,231 currently in existence in New York City. The lawsuit alleges that nearly a year after the settlement was signed, Woodside drivers were paid late for fares they earned by credit card, putting drivers in serious financial distress.
Woodside Management, Inc., is accused of creating false receipts purporting to show timely payment, and providing those false receipts to drivers and to the Attorney General’s office as part of the settlement’s reporting requirements.
Because many taxi drivers earn fares from customers who pay by credit card, TLC Lease Rules contain specific provisions about how drivers are to receive those fares. Most frequently, managing agents collect credit card receipts through a wireless system in the cabs, and then pass these fares on to the drivers who have earned them. A managing agent is required to pay earned credit card fares to taxicab drivers leasing a medallion on a weekly basis.
“We appreciate the Attorney General’s ongoing commitment to protecting drivers’ rights,” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said. “And to the accountability that is so crucially central to our regulated industries. We look forward to the continued relationship between the TLC’s Driver Protection Unit and the Attorney General’s committed staff, so that our licensees may always count on these protections.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr