College students enlisted by the city to pose as Manhattan taxi passengers heading to another borough got turned down by yellow-cab drivers a shocking 50 percent of the time as part of a city sting, it was disclosed yesterday.
Officials said the findings indicate that previous probes by inspectors employed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission may have vastly underestimated how many times cabbies are breaking the law by refusing to leave the gilded streets of Manhattan.
“We had concern that our enforcement agents are recognizable by taxi drivers — we only have 100,” said taxi chief David Yassky, explaining why four graduate students from Baruch College’s School of Public Policy were quietly pressed into service in January and February to conduct undercover tests.
The students hailing cabs in Manhattan 260 times asked to be taken to one of the other boroughs. They were rejected half the time.
By comparison, city inspectors using the same script had a problem in only 21 of 118 instances this week.
It didn’t take long for a Post reporter to get a taste of what it’s like for a Bronx resident trying to get home from Greenwich Village in a yellow cab.
Standing on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Morton Street at 3:15 p.m., the reporter stopped seven taxis and asked to go to the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Five drivers were ready to step on the gas. But two offered excuses why they couldn’t make the trip.
“It’s too much traffic,” said Abdul Majeed. “I have to give the car to the night driver. I can’t go to The Bronx. Take another car. It will take too long. If I’m late, I have to pay the other driver. I have to return the car to Brooklyn.”
Another reporter got the same brush-off when she asked to be taken from Columbus Circle to Dekalb and Classon avenues in Brooklyn at 3:45 p.m. — only this time, the driver said he had to return his vehicle to The Bronx for a shift change.
“I would love to take you, I would. That would be a really nice fare for me. But I have to take the cab back to The Bronx when I’m off at five. I won’t make it,” claimed the driver, who didn’t give his name.
Another driver on an undercover video played by Mayor Bloomberg at City Hall claimed he didn’t know how to get to Liberty Street and Lefferts Boulevard in the Richmond Hill section of Queens.
“Do you have a map we could follow?” an inspector asked the cabby, who’s been licensed by the TLC since 1997.
“No, no. No, take someone else,” the cabby replied.
Officials said this was the driver’s third refusal violation, and he now faces the loss of his hack license.
The video was made after driver Mohammed Azem was charged with running his vehicle into a man in a dispute about going from Midtown to The Bronx last weekend.
Bloomberg emphasized that the law requires cabbies to take passengers wherever they want to go within the five boroughs, as well as Westchester and Nassau and Newark Airport.
“It is part of the contract drivers agree to when they take the job,” the mayor said.
Additional reporting by Amber Sutherland and Sabrina Ford