RED HOOK — Ikea's efforts to keep cabbies from competing for fares at its Red Hook megastore has some taxi drivers sneakily poaching passengers, leading to the arrest of a driver who threatened to kill a rival hack earlier this month.
Two years ago, Ikea contracted the company Safari as its official car service to prevent cabbies from fighting over fares and to ensure drivers could be regularly vetted for customer and employee safety, according to Ikea local marketing manager Lorna Montalvo.
But over the past year, Ikea has been facing a problem with unauthorized cabdrivers sneaking into the store’s parking area to solicit fares, she said.
“It can get pretty intense out there,” she said.
While any car or cab is allowed to drop customers onto Ikea property, Safari is the authorized car service for customer pickups, with a branch office on the premises, she added.
On Feb. 13, police arrested a Safari driver for pushing and threatening to kill a green taxi driver who was parked on the store's property, the NYPD said.
Ikea's security manager told Montalvo that the green cabbie had been "causing some waves" for soliciting fares from customers at the store, she said.
Rami, a manager at Safari who declined to give his last name, said it is Ikea security’s responsibility to stop livery, gypsy and city cabs from picking up customers within the massive property.
But “every day” he sees other cabs come onto the property, adding that Safari’s drivers do not get involved and only sometimes tell them to move.
The safety and security manager at Ikea is working with the local 76th Precinct and the Taxi and Limousine Commission “to try and stop that behavior,” Montalvo added.
The entire incident occurred because of an overreaction by the green cabdriver, the Safari manager said.
“That guy was ridiculous,” Rami said, calling the green cabbie's call to police unnecessary. “Nothing’s happened like that [before].”
Emad Saad, 53, the Safari driver who was arrested, played off the whole incident as a "joke" gone wrong.
Saad said he had only been teasing the green cabbie because he thought he had recently been hired by Safari and was trying to haze the new guy. A manager at Safari said off-duty green cabs are allowed to join their car service.
Saad said he pretended to be angry and told the green cabbie that he couldn't park on the premises before yanking the driver's car key out of the ignition while both were arguing on an Ikea sidewalk, he said.
The driver immediately called police and said that Saad had threatened to kill him, pushed him and took his $500 Toyota key, according to the police report.
While Saad admitted to taking the key, he said he never touched the driver or threatened him. He was charged with petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and harassment, police said.
Saad said he was released a few hours later after police heard his story. Police did not immediately confirm the account and said Saad was issued a desk appearance ticket at the precinct.
The Brooklyn District Attorney's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The identity of the green cabdriver, who was not an employee of Safari, was not immediately available.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission also did not respond to a request for comment.