For just $5, a cab driver will take you anywhere within the City of Newburgh you need to go. Now the city’s cab drivers think they deserve a raise.
Newburgh members of the Orange County Taxi Driver Association called for a raise to the cab fare, address the increase in insurance pricing, address the increase in license renewal pricing and be provided more street lights and police protection while out at night.
Members spoke on these issues on Monday, January 10, before the Newburgh City Council.
Councilwoman Giselle Martinez provided an English translation for Spanish speakers for the public record as members stepped forward to the microphone.
Driver Miguel Cerrato started working in the City of Newburgh in 2009. The regular cab fare at the time was $5 per ride. 13 years later, the fare is still $5. Cerrato asked the taxi fares to be increased to $7 per trip.
“The cost of the insurance for the taxis is being increased 44 to 55 percent,” Cerrato said. Drivers who pay $450 a month are now required to pay $650 to $700 a month.
Driver Mario Lucero stated that transporting someone within city limits, the fare is $5 per ride. Outside the city, the fare is $7 per ride. He asked the cab fares outside the city to be increased to $10 per ride. He also asked the council to reduce the taxicab driver’s licenses from $200 to $25.
Councilwoman Martinez translated for the record that Newburgh drivers Javier Martinez, an independent taxi driver, and Miguel Martinez also voiced their support for the decrease in taxi insurance as mentioned previously.
Miguel also requested of the council to provide more police protection at night, to reduce the vehicle inspection prices from $400 to $200 and to crack down on illegal taxis using the drivers own personal license plates and insurances.
Councilwoman Martinez translated for the record driver Mery Mejia. She said she began working in 2008. She said during the time as a driver she stated she was assaulted four times and had two more acts of aggression against her.
Mejia also wanted the rider fare price to increase because for groups of riders of up to five to six people, they only need to pay the one $5 fare at no extra cost.
She is requesting more police presence and more street lights or lights to be installed on the majority of the city streets such as Liberty, Broadway, Lutheran, Overlook, and South Lander.
Newburgh resident Rene Mejia approached the city council and also shared his comments. Mejia stated he was also a cab driver between 2011 to 2016.
“I understand exactly the difficulty and the issues that these cab drivers are going through,” Mejia said. “I myself have been mugged on. I’ve had someone assault me because they didn’t want to pay six dollars.”
Juana Bendezú, the sister of the late Jorge Arbayza De La Cruz, also spoke before the council, also asking for their assistance in supporting the cab drivers in the city with cab fare increases.
Back in September of 2021, Arbayza De La Cruz of Newburgh, was shot and killed while working as a cab driver. He was 51.
At the end of public comments, Mayor Torrance Harvey wanted to make a motion to increase the cab fare prices. Michelle Kelson of Corporation Counsel said that this would not be possible without a city ordinance.
City Manager Todd Venning stated that he and his office have been working with the city police department and city cab companies since December to assist with cab registration and to review the cab fares. “The progress takes time and we’re still working on it,” Venning said.
Newburgh cab drivers cannot currently afford the different fees associated with driving cabs in the city. According to Venning, there are only six driver registrations, two licenses renewed and four cars registered/in compliance.
A pamphlet with information for cab drivers to meet city requirements can be prepared in two weeks which will be sent to the city legal department, according to Venning. This information will be available in English and Spanish.