Too Many Taxis, Bikers, Runners, Races

    Eighty percent of the night life in the entire town of East Hampton is now in Montauk, East Hampton Town Police Lt. Chris Hatch, who is also the Montauk precinct commander, told the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee Monday night.
    The nightclubs located in the other hamlets are really seeing a drop in business, a member commented.
    The subject came up during a discussion about regulating taxicabs. This year the easternmost hamlet saw a proliferation of cabs from New York City and other areas UpIsland added to the increasing number already working here. At times there were 8 to 10 cabs parked on both sides of the street in front of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce.
    Asked about it after last month’s discussion, East Hampton Town Clerk Fred Overton said that 75 permits had been issued at a price of $200 per business and $150 for each additional vehicle. There are now 375 cabs in operation, he said. The cab company owner is subject to a background check, said Mr. Overton, while cab owners are required to show proof of insurance and a business license to get a permit.
    The permits are supposed to be placed on the vehicle’s front and back windows. Diane Hausman, the advisory committee’s chairwoman, said on Monday that she had been conducting an informal check of those stickers. “I haven’t seen any,” she said.
    Committee members think the regulations are too light and have asked that the town create a taxi commission and raise the fee for a permit upward of $5,000 apiece. Permits should not be issued, members said, unless the business owner can provide a local physical address, not a box number. Off-duty cabs would be parked on the owner’s property, not taking up parking spaces. Also, members said, taxi drivers should be regularly drug-tested, and rates should be posted where customers can see them.
    Cab companies should be required to bid for a permit, just like the food truck vendors, said Lisa Grenci, a member and former chairwoman of the committee. “If we’re charging food vendors, then the taxi permits should also go out for bid,” she said. “They’re making a lot of money out here.”
    Morgan Neff, who said he was a former New York City cab driver, said the answer was simple: raise the permit fee. “If you pay a lot of money, then you respect it. If you come here to run a medallion you’re going to have to pay for it,” he said.
    Trish Scott, a former cab driver, said drivers already receive quite a bit of scrutiny from the police. She suggested the committee invite cab owners to a meeting and let them have their say.
    Moving on, the committee descended upon triathlons, marathons, and bike races, which seem to take place almost every weekend since the spring. One member said last weekend was horrible, filled with bikers jamming the roads and blocking side streets and driveways. The committee will ask the town board for more oversight when granting permits for these events. It was suggested that the board does not have the time to review each application carefully.
    Jay Fruin reminded members that last year Tom Bogdan, a Montauk resident, had suggested a subcommittee be formed to scrutinize the applications and make recommendations to the town board before it issues permits. It might also find out exactly where the event proceeds go. Committee members said some event organizers charge $150 per person to participate and there are often over 200 people registered. The town should be getting more money from the races, they said.
    “People are coming into our town, raping us, and then leaving. The money should be going to the Police Department so they can get more help,” said Richie Weiss, a guest.