A Puerto Rican mayor visiting New York was kicked out of a cab after the driver refused to take her from Greenwich Village to her Bronx hotel.
Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto, of San Juan, was trying to get back to the Opera House Hotel on 149th Street on Wednesday night when she and three co-workers were kicked out of a yellow cab. The hotel had been recommended to her by her friend, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
"One of the things that people had told us is watch out for the transportation," she said at an unrelated news conference on Thursday. "And as we are about $3.50 into the cab fare he told [us], 'you're going to the Bronx? Well I don't know how to get there.'
"He kicked us out, he told us we had to get out," she added. "And he knew he was not doing the right thing because I said, 'well I'm not going to pay you. You're kicking me out of the cab.' He said, 'you don't have to pay me.' So he knew."
Cruz Soto said the group got out of the taxi and quickly looked up the address of the historic boutique hotel, which first opened as an opera house in 1913. They then tried again with a second cab.
"And about two and a half minutes into it, he says 'oh, well this is in the Bronx ... Well you didn't tell me it was in the Bronx. You should have told me it was in the Bronx,'" she recalled. "He took us there and all the while he was complaining that he was going to the Bronx."
Cruz Soto said she remembered to take down all the license plate numbers and reached out to Mark-Viverito, who called the incident "a shame" and said a formal complaint will be filed.
"We sincerely regret Mayor Cruz' negative experience, and assure her that we are investigating this fully and will hold the drivers accountable for their actions," TLC Spokesman Allan Fromberg said in a statement. "We hope to someday have an opportunity to introduce her to some of New York's City's true professional cabdrivers, so that she can see firsthand what an unfortunate aberration these drivers were."
The TLC receives about 18,000 complaints each year from people who agree to participate in the required hearing, about 30% of which are service refusals, according to the agency. The top complaint is discourtesy.
Mark-Viverito said she was happy Cruz Soto agreed to take her up on the recommendation to support businesses outside Manhattan, and stressed that refusing a ride is illegal.
"And so we're going to continue to strive each and every day to ensure that the Yellow cab industry, and all cab services, are ones that are providing service to all sections of the city, which deserve and merit it as well," she said. "So if somebody lives in the Bronx and wants to get home, they have the right to demand that service and to get that service."
Cruz Soto said she was disappointed, but hoped the incident would lead to a better experience for those living in the outer boroughs.
"This is New York. The world looks at this city with admiration," she said. "So just because you're going to the Bronx, or just because you're going to Queens, or just because you're going outside of Manhattan, doesn't mean you're going to a lesser place."