Livery Car Driver Wrongly Accused of Being Illegal Cabbie 6 Times, Docs Say
LONG ISLAND CITY — The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission is driving him crazy.
A part-time New Jersey livery hack who occasionally drives people into the city has been accused of being an illegal cabbie a half dozen times by TLC inspectors in the past two years — and each time a judge threw out the case.
Walter Parrish III said that in each case TLC agents issued him a summons and seized his 2011 Lincoln Town Car, costing him thousands of dollars in work and travel expenses. Parrish, 49, believes the ticketing and wrongful seizures were the result of inspectors blatantly ignoring city rules.
"This is ridiculous. These guys should know what their jobs are," he told DNAinfo New York. "I call it grave ineptitude, gross incompetence and profound stupidity."
Parrish's car was most recently hauled away on June 5, when inspectors stopped him as he dropped off a passenger at the Waldorf-Astoria in Midtown.
Both Parrish and his passenger said that he made the pickup at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Drivers who are not licensed by the TLC are legally allowed to pick up passengers outside the city and then drive them into the city.
TLC inspectors issued him a ticket, even though the summons noted that the trip originated in New Jersey.
Parrish went to his hearing before a city administrative judge in Long Island City on Thursday, but the case was disimissed within minutes after a TLC representative asked to withdraw the complaint.
"It's not surprising," said Parrish, who also works as an arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "It's unfortunate it took so long. Hopefully, they'll get the word out now to leave private citizens alone who come in from New Jersey."
In the past week, DNAinfo has reported that at least three drivers have accused the TLC of racial and ethnic profiling. Parrish says he doesn't think he was personally profiled — but he says his car was.
"I call it vehicular stop-and-frisk," he said. "Lincoln Town Cars, they're ubiquitous among livery drivers throughout the city. If I were driving another vehicle, I wouldn't be stopped."
He also believes that inspectors are being told to write tickets.
"The TLC was on a hiring binge," he said, referring to the agency expanding its enforcement team in 2012. "I think these officers are under a lot of pressure to meet quotas."
Drivers accused of being illegal cabbies can plead guilty and pay a $600 summons and hundreds of dollars in towing fees to retrieve their vehicles.
Or they can choose to fight the summons at an administrative hearing, which is generally a week after the date the summons was issued. Drivers can get their cars back before their hearing dates by posting a $2,000 bond. If they win their case, they get the bond money back and can retrieve their car for free.
Parrish is currently suing the TLC for $10,500 in Brooklyn Civil Court in connection to the first three seizures of his car. He claims he had to shell out money on travel expenses before he could post bond to get his car out of the impound lot.
The TLC declined to comment citing the pending litigation.
Parrish was first accused of being an illegal cabbie on May 6, 2012, while driving friends of a friend to 23rd Street in Manhattan after he attended a function at Pace University.
An administrative judge sided with the TLC inspectors at Parrish's hearing. However, an appeals judge later reversed the decision and sided with Parrish, records show.
TLC agents stopped Parrish again on June 27, 2013, for driving a passenger in the Lower East Side. But a judge ruled that he had lawfully picked up the passenger at Newark Airport, according to the decision.
The third accusation occurred on Aug. 12, 2013, when Parrish was stopped again on the Lower East Side. A judge later determined that Parrish again lawfully picked up the passenger in New Jersey, the decision says.
Parrish has also filed notices of claims — the first step in suing the city — for his fourth and fifth seizures.
In the fourth incident, a judge again determined Parrish made a lawful pickup at Newark, according to the Oct. 15, 2013, decision. In the fifth, a judge sided with Parrish who said he was wrongfully stopped for driving a friend, according to the Feb. 25, 2014, ruling.
Parrish plans on filing a notice of claim on the sixth seizure as well.