‘Outrageous’: De Blasio Warns Drivers Amid Reports Cabbies Avoiding Asian-Americans Over Coronavirus

Kristie Keleshian
February 16, 2020 - 11:00 am
A cab driver in Chinatown

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city taxi commissioner are warning cabbies amid reports that some drivers are avoiding Asian-American communities and customers over fears of the coronavirus.

De Blasio warned that fare refusal is illegal and that it could cost cabbies a $500 fine and Uber and Lyft drivers their jobs.

There have so far been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city or state, but some cabbies are reportedly avoiding communities with large Asian-American populations because they fear they’ll get the disease.

"This is OUTRAGEOUS," de Blasio wrote on Twitter. “Let me be perfectly clear: there WILL be consequences for anyone caught taking part in this kind of cruel racial profiling. To our Asian American community: your city has your back and this discrimination will NOT be tolerated.”

TLC Commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk also responded to the reports.

“Not in our city,” Jarmoszuk was quoted as saying in a Twitter post. “Fare refusal is illegal—we won’t stand for discrimination against our Asian-American community. Fear is the enemy, not our neighbors. Report refusals immediately to @nyc311  and we will take action.”

Small Business Commissioner Gregg Bishop agrees with the mayor and TLC commissioner.

“No New Yorkers should be discriminated against. The rules are clear for taxi driver. I think this is just a symptom of misinformation,” Bishop told WCBS 880.

Businesses in Chinatown and other communities with large Asian-American populations like Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, have already reported massive drops in business since concerns over the virus grew in January.

A noodle shop employee on Bayard Street in Chinatown, who wanted to remain anonymous, told WCBS 880 that he has had to cut employee hours and even lay off employees this past month because of the coronavirus panic.

“Traffic was dead,” he said. “The cold and now the coronavirus just slowed everything down—50 percent and more. It’s like no customers at all coming down. People just scared to come out.”

Another restaurant owner said that she asked her landlord to cut a deal with her because she couldn’t afford her January rent.