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UWS Community Board Rejects Cab Crash Bill After Initial Support

By Emily Frost | May 7, 2014 5:41pm
 Community Board 7 voted not to support a proposed law that would penalize taxi drivers who seriously injure or kill pedestrians while breaking the law.
Community Board 7 voted not to support a proposed law that would penalize taxi drivers who seriously injure or kill pedestrians while breaking the law.
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Flickr/Daniel Dudek-Corrigan

UPPER WEST SIDE — A proposed law that would penalize taxi drivers who seriously injure or kill pedestrians while breaking the law was rejected by the local community board for being too vague and unfair to cabbies — despite some members pleading for those exact measures earlier this year.

Community Board 7 voted Tuesday to reject Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal's legislation, which has already been introduced to the City Council and is up for a vote in coming weeks.

She drafted Intro 171 in response to the death of Upper West Sider Cooper Stock, 9, who was killed by a taxi driver who failed to yield to the boy near his home earlier this year. The driver has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing or been barred from driving.

CB7 said on Tuesday that the law as currently written leaves too much room for interpretation and isn't fair to taxi drivers, voting overwhelmingly not to support the proposal. 

But back in February, transportation committee members passed a resolution asking for the same regulations the law outlines, with Rosenthal following suit by proposing the legislation.

Under "Cooper's Law," a taxi driver ticketed by police for a traffic violation during a collision that caused serious injuries or death would have his or her license immediately suspended and an investigation would be launched. If the investigation found that the violation caused serious injury or death, the driver's TLC license would be permanently revoked. 

At its April committee meeting, CB7's transportation committee voted unanimously, 7-0, in favor of the bill, with three non-committee board members also lending their support, according to records. 

The full board, however, voted against supporting the legislation Tuesday night — with 28 rejecting it, 8 supporting it, and two abstaining. The board's vote is only advisory.

CB7 member Michelle Parker said she was upset the law targeted taxi drivers exclusively.

"Why not include anyone who is licensed by the city and has the privilege of driving?" she asked. 

Parker added that she was completely against the bill because of the repercussions for cabdrivers. 

"There is such a thing as an accident," she argued. "When a license is suspended, a man cannot work. He is supporting his family."

Transportation committee co-chairman Dan Zweig thought the law's language wasn't specific enough in terms of what counted as a traffic violation, worrying that just having a tail light out and getting into an accident could result in a loss of a driver's TLC license. 

Others felt the law didn't go into enough detail about what counts as a serious injury or how that would be determined. 

The law does state that a serious injury is any injury determined to be critical by EMS personnel responding to the incident, according to the official language.

Rosenthal, who didn't attend Tuesday's meeting, said she was disappointed by the board's vote after the transportation committee gave its approval last month.

"I think that they raised good concerns, all of which I wish they had communicated to me prior to the meeting last night," she told DNAinfo New York on Wednesday. "Unfortunately I wasn’t there to tell them the reality of the situation." 

Adressing members' concerns over what constituted a traffic violation, Rosenthal explained that it means running a red light, speeding or failing to yield, even though those aren't specified in the proposed law. 

She added that an injury is deemed "critical" if EMS has to "use life-sustaining measures" — another point not spelled out in the bill.

"The concerns have been addressed," Rosenthal said. "I would like to think upon knowing these things they would have voted differently."