Billyburgers boycott black cabs

On the same day that a biker was killed in Park Slope last week (above), a taxicab ran into another cyclist in Williamsburg, sparking a boycott.
The Brooklyn Paper / Joe Marino

North Brooklyn residents are striking back after a hit and run accident injured a cyclist by boycotting a cab company that they say is disrespectful, discourteous, and downright dangerous.

The Sept. 10 crash, which hospitalized the bike rider, has sparked a boycott of Northside Car Service, a Bedford Avenue taxi company that dispatches 136 black cabs to Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.

The victim of the crash was commuting on Kent Avenue last Wednesday morning when an oncoming Northside cab made an “irrationally fast turn” onto North Seventh Street, said Marin Pockman — a friend of the cyclist — in a widely circulated e-mail.

To avoid colliding with the cab, the biker slammed on the brakes, went over the handlebars, and broke his collarbone and elbow, Pockman said.

The cab did not stop.

A witness identified the car as a Northside vehicle and said that the victim had the right of way, but there is some confusion on that issue, said Northside employee Galo Bermello.

“According to the driver, he was waiting for the bicyclist to keep on going, but he didn’t go — so the driver went,” he added.

Bermello was unsure if — or why — the cabbie drove away.

“Leaving the scene? We don’t really know anything about it,” said Bermello.

That didn’t satisfy Pockman, the injured cyclist’s friend.

“I’m concerned about Northside’s behavior and I’m concerned about how they reacted to that accident,” said Pockman, who started the boycott and urged neighbors to refuse service from the cab company, in order to “speak out against Northside and make them accountable for the hit and run.”

Neighbors have been concerned about the “rogue” taxi company before.

In 2005, Community Board 1 sent a letter to Northside urging drivers not to honk their horns when they pick up passengers, and not to idle in front of Northside’s Bedford Avenue dispatching office, where the cars blocked a bus stop.

“If we continue to hear complaints about Northside Car Service, we will take those complaints into consideration when it is time for us to review your license renewal application,” the letter stated.

Bermello, the Northside employee, insisted that drivers idle in front of the dispatching office for no more than a few seconds at a time, and that cabbies need to honk their horns to alert passengers because the company is too busy to call each fare individually.

But the grievances against Northside have not only continued — they’ve gotten worse, said Teresa Toro, chair of the board’s Transportation committee.

“I hear numerous, complaints about reckless driving — defined by rolling through stop signs, speeding, and not yielding the right of way to pedestrians,” she said.

In the days following the accident, the driver met with the cyclist and settled his medical expenses, but Pockman and others are continuing the boycott.

The Sept. 10 crash occurred on the same day that Jonathan Millstein, 50, was killed in Park Slope when he was run over by a school bus while cycling, and just four days after Alexander Toulouse, 8, was killed by a postal truck on his bike.

The scene of the Kent Avenue crash is on a part of the neighborhood’s hotly contested greenway — a planned protected bike lane that would connect waterfront communities from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.

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