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MAP: Green Cabs Offer Little Service to Red Hook Commuters

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 5, 2015 8:11am
 Michel'le Thomas, 23, lives in Red Hook and travels for more than an hour on public transportation to get to her college in Crown Heights.
Michel'le Thomas, 23, lives in Red Hook and travels for more than an hour on public transportation to get to her college in Crown Heights.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

RED HOOK — Like many college students, Michel’le Thomas is sometimes late for her morning class.

Thomas, a 23-year-old Red Hook resident, travels for more than an hour on public transportation to get to Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights — roughly 4 miles from her home.

“If only I knew that I could have a cab waiting for me,” Thomas said. “If I could just come downstairs and flag one down, I could make it to school on time.”

The Taxi and Limousine Commission started the Boro Taxi program in 2013 to help outer borough residents like Thomas who rarely received service through yellow taxis.

But the green cab drivers have largely ignored Red Hook, even as nearby neighborhoods received significantly more service, according to data obtained by DNAinfo New York.

For example, on June 24, 2014, the most recent date with available data, there were just 10 green cab pickups in Red Hook, compared to 266 pickups in nearby Carroll Gardens, data show.

“To see more green cabs frequently in the neighborhood...would be helpful,” Thomas said.

Residents have long complained about the lack of transportation options in Red Hook since most locals rely on MTA buses and a subway station outside the neighborhood.

Carlo Scissura, the president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said Red Hook and other parts of Brooklyn need green cabs “if we want businesses to continue to develop there and when we want people to come to dinner there, to shop there, to visit their friends there,” he said. 

“The green cabs are a good idea," Scissura said. "But they need to be out in places like Red Hook, like Bay Ridge, like Bensonhurst."

It was not immediately clear why green cab pickups were low in Red Hook but some residents speculated that the neighborhood’s violent past played a role in it.

“A lot of people have not done their research on Red Hook and realized it’s not the crime-ridden neighborhood of the '90s anymore,” said Karen Broughton, a resident who works in the office of State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz.

“People have that stigma and that’s really not true,” she said.

Green cab drivers in other under-served parts of the city said they avoid spots where there is not a lot of foot traffic or where there is too much competition for fares.

While some in Red Hook want to see more green cabs, others said they would rather have more affordable transportation come to the neighborhood, like Citi Bike or expanded ferry service.

"There is a real need to think creatively about how to best connect Red Hook residents to the rest of the city through transportation that includes green taxis, but not only them — also subways, buses, ferries, and bikes," said City Councilman Carlos Menchaca in a statement.  

"We are in the right political moment — a progressive one — to talk about transportation equity, and to address those concerns aggressively. I hope to continue to have dialogue with the TLC about how to better serve our residents, but we cannot have this conversation in a silo. We must continue to think largely about transportation," he added.

This article is the fourth in a series examining how well the Boro Taxi is serving New York City's neighborhoods. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.