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Peekskill Taxi Drivers Decry Insurance Increase

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – More than a dozen city taxicab drivers attended Monday's Peekskill Common Council meeting to speak out against a proposed increase in insurance costs for drivers.

At a public hearing for the new law, taxi owners said the increase was unfair and would pose a huge burden on businesses.  The proposed new policy would require taxi companies to maintain a liability insurance policy of $100,000 per incident and $300,000 of total coverage per period, an increase from the current amounts of $25,000 and $50,000.

"The purpose of this was to provide an added measure of protection for people using the taxis in the City of Peekskill in the event there was some sort of mishap or subsequent injuries or damage," said Peekskill Police Chief Eugene Tumolo.

Corporation Council Bernis Nelson said the changes are needed because current insurance levels were often not sufficient to cover accidents and said the proposal was in line with requirements in New York City over the last 20 years.

But drivers said the proposed increase would put an onerous burden on small taxi businesses.

"Never in my business of 20 years have I experienced such a hardship as this cast upon me – I feel this is very unfair," taxi driver Kevin Toohey of Cortlandt Manor told Peekskill Common Council members.

Taxi owner Ramon Fernandez told city officials that taxi drivers had already been struggling to meet new inspection regulations and fees enacted at the beginning of the year and the new regulations could put some drivers out of business.

"The kids and the wives are scared because we don't know if we're going to be able to keep working," Fernandez said.

Taxi owner and driver Anthony Bazzo of Yorktown said it was simply unfair to penalize all drivers with such increases regardless of driving record.

"You'll be penalizing by the nature of the business not the nature of their driving," Bazzo said.  "That is wrong."

Bazzo said other cities such as New York City and Newburgh were not accurate comparisons to Peekskill since those cities were fleet cities and do not have independent taxi drivers.  The insurance changes were unnecessary thanks to new rules put in place last year, he added.

"Your new rules removed a company that was unsafe," Bazzo said. "Your new rules have already had a few drivers suspended. That's safety – actual safety."

Mayor Mary Foster said the council would be discussing the proposal further at next Monday's work session and that another public hearing would be scheduled before any further action would be taken.

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