Brakes slammed on yellow cabs

Yellow Cab

KEYPORT YELLOW TAXI’S well used yet derided cabs must be off the borough’s streets today because they neither have a license nor a place of business.

The cabbies could face fines of $25 each for operating unlicensed taxis if they continue to pick up fares.

“You don’t have a license to operate anywhere,” Councilwoman Sophia Lamberson told Geraldo Rodriguez, the yellow taxi owner. “Your cabs shouldn’t be in Keyport.”

The cab company was the subject of an often unruly and confused public hearing and Borough Council debate Tuesday night, which was held in advance of a vote to extend the cab company’s lapsed operating license.

Ultimately, the Borough Council did not extend the yellow cab’s provisional license, which expired Aug. 30, in a vote of 5-0 because the company has not found a legal office after being ousted from its former headquarters on Route 35. Councilman Warren Chamberlain was absent.

Residents who spoke during the hearing complained that Yellow Taxi drivers routinely ignore traffic laws, park on private property while waiting for calls and have a general disregard for motorists and pedestrians.

The grievances are nothing new. Objections about the company have been aired for at least two years, and the yellow cabs have been the subject of discussion at every council session since July.

Ed Burlew, a business and landowner in town sought to end the debate: “If they have no license and no base of operations, what are we talking about?”

The cab company had been allowed to continue picking up customers in Keyport after Aug. 30, because borough officials believed Rodriguez owned another company operating out of Perth Amboy that could send cabs into town.

Cab companies licensed in other towns are permitted to pick-up passengers in Keyport if they are called specifically, but they are not allowed to cruise streets, solicit fares, or base themselves in the borough.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez — speaking through his daughter Mary Denardo, who acted as a translator for him — told the council that he had no other licenses.

Furthermore, he admitted his company was using a Main Street home near the downtown business district as his place of business. That building’s landlord applied to use that house as the taxi office and was denied, according to Valerie Heilweil, the borough clerk. He has been using that space since his lease on Route 35 was not renewed, he said.

Rodriguez, who showed up 50 minutes late to the meeting and about a half hour into the discussion about his company, said he wished that borough officials would have presented him complaints about specific drivers, or that borough police had given summonses to cabbies breaking traffic laws. He said that if he knew which drivers were the problem he could deal with them individually. He said he couldn’t be expected to fire his entire staff and start over.

Two people spoke on behalf of the service Keyport Yellow Taxi provides. They both explained that calling an out of town cab is more expensive — $5 for the Keyport taxis and $8-$10 for out of town cabs, plus tips.

“We do need Keyport taxi in town,” said Cary Anderson. “I want to pay a cheaper fare rather than $8 or $10.”

By and large, councilors agreed that Keyport Yellow Taxi did provide a needed service to borough residents, but they could not let the company operate without a place of business.

Mayor Harry Aumack II encouraged Rodriguez to reorganize his operation, consult and attorney and reapply for a license when his company is reordered.