Doormen at some of the city’s swankiest hotels are shaking down cabbies for shameless kickbacks before allowing them to transport guests to airports — and are blacklisting drivers who refuse to pay up, taxi officials told The Post.
The rampant, only-in-New York scheme pitting two service industries against each other has sparked a Taxi and Limousine Commission investigation, officials said.
“This stuff goes on day-in and day-out at hotels all over Midtown,” said David Pollack, a former driver and director of the Committee for Taxi Safety. “It’s never happened as much as it is now. Everyone’s hurting for money and no one is stopping it.”
When Pollack was driving a cab in the 1970s, the doorman’s kickback was $1 to La Guardia and $2 to JFK Airport.
But today, drivers will fork over as much as $5 for La Guardia, $10 for JFK, and $15 for Newark.
It’s a way for doormen to double their tips, as the tourist they’re hailing a cab for will also toss them some green.
“After they collect the tip from the guests, they wrap around the car and get a tip from the driver,” said cabby Mohammed Shiraz, 31, outside the Milford Hotel yesterday. “It’s just wrong.”
Hacks who won’t play by the street rules are ostracized from taxi lines outside hotels, which could devastate their bottom line.
Doormen will bypass them for the next cab driver who will pay, or hail a “black car” livery cab.
“It’s a dirty little trade secret. The doormen don’t want this to get out,” said a Hilton doorman, who claims it doesn’t happen at his hotel. “They figure no one will listen to a cabby so they’re easy to prey on.”
Drivers said they feel helpless.
“What are we going to do? Wait around and never get another job from a hotel?” said cabby Alfred Ducrepin.
The scam works in different ways, depending on where the hotel is along the street and the location of the cab stand.
At the Milford, doormen give the drivers signs. One finger means La Guardia, two means JFK and three means Newark, drivers said. The transaction occurs after the doormen help guests with their luggage.
At the Hudson Hotel, doormen send another employee to the cab stand 75 feet down the block to act as an intermediary with the driver.
Officials also confirmed that other offending hotels are the Roosevelt, the Hilton chain, and the W chain.
The TLC investigation involves undercover agents posing as tourists at the hotels, and documenting when they see cash interactions take place.
That detailed information is compiled and can be presented to hotel management in an effort to get them to rein in their doormen.
The practice is not a crime, and cabbies who pay doormen for fares are not violating TLC policy, officials said.
“We hear many complaints from the taxi industry about this problem, and we are very sensitive to them,” said TLC chief David Yassky.
He wrote a letter this week to a series of hotel managers warning that doormen may be passing up yellow cabs that don’t pay the kickback in favor of unlicensed livery cars.
Additional reporting by Amber Sutherland and C.J. Sullivan