JACKSON HEIGHTS – A Queens gas station owned by a taxi tycoon is refusing to sell gas to  anyone but yellow cabs – with preferential treatment for his own drivers – even  as desperate motorists line up for blocks to get fuel amid a  massive shortage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

On the eve of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mandatory gas-rationing plan, a Shell station on Northern Boulevard and  71st Street was giving away a seemingly endless supply of gas – mainly to  members of taxi mogul Evgeny Freidman’s taxi fleet.

Freidman’s gas station had three working pumps on Thursday and has been flush  with gas in the wake of the hurricane, even as dozens of others around the five  boroughs ran dry and closed, sparking massive lines.

The station waved away at least five pleading motorists trying to fill up at  the pump within an hour that evening while yellow cabs flew through the line and  filled up, as officials from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission stood by  and watched.

“We’re just here to provide security,” said a TLC official, who turned up at  the station at 5 p.m. Thursday, along with several NYPD officers, after getting  “hundreds” of 911 calls about fights at that station.

Two pumps were reserved for Taxi Club Management, Freidman’s massive fleet of  cabs. All other cab drivers, who had been turned away from the station until the  TLC intervened Wednesday, had to wait in two-block-long lines to use the third  pump, even when the Taxi Club lines were empty.

The scene came as the city rolled out a controversial odd-even gas rationing  plan  gas rationing plan, only allowing those whose license  plate  ends in an even number to get gas on even-numbered days, and those whose license  plate ends in an odd number, a letter or another character to get gas on  odd-numbered days.

The order does not apply to taxis or livery vehicles, because  they are a part of the “public transportation system,” city officials said  Thursday.

Police who were briefly on hand at the Jackson Heights station Thursday  directed traffic and tried to keep order, telling one angry driver waiting in a  long line that there was nothing he could do because it was a private  facility.

“If you’re serving the public, you should serve the public at all times,” Maribel Egipciaco, 52, who waited in line for 15 minutes before an  attendant came out and shooed her away.

Egipciao added that she plans to boycott the station long after the gas  situation returns to normal, and recommended others do the same.

Freidman, who has 232 medallions, the most owned by anyone in the city, according  to Crain’s, defended his tactics.

“It’s my gas that I’m paying a ridiculous amount of money for,” said  Freidman, adding he’s been shipping the gas in from places like Boston and New  Hampshire, “I think we’re providing an essential service for taxi  cabs.”

Officials from the Taxi and Limousine Commission looked on as cabs poured into a Shell Station in Jackson Heights and locals were turned away.

Gas at the station was going for $4.50 a gallon for drivers not in  Freidman’s fleet, with a maximum purchase of $40.

Freidman, 41, emigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union in 1976, according to Crain’s New York Business, and became  giant of the taxi industry who owns one of the city’s largest fleets, Taxi Club  Management, Inc.

His cab companies include: 28th Street Management, which is based in Chelsea;  the Queens-based garage Woodside Management; Downtown Taxi Management, which is  based in Park Slope; and Tunnel Taxi Management, which is based in Long Island  City.

Drivers had other words for the lockout.

Woodside resident Will Wade-Pentel, 25, was driving around on Wednesday  looking to fill up his parents’ car. He waited for 15 minutes, and the car was  below a quarter-tank of gas when he was turned away.

“The subways are back,” Wade-Pentel said. “There doesn’t seem like any reason  to be doing this ‘taxis only’ rule.”

Cab driver Maurice Jiminez, 43, who said he drove as far as Westport CT in  search of gas, was among one the drivers turned away by attendants at Freidman’s  Shell station.

“They asked me ‘what garage do you belong to?’ and I knew what was  happening,” said Jiminez, who does not drive for Taxi Club. “They were basically  just supplying their [fleet of] cars with gas.”

A TLC spokesman said the agency was aware of the  station, and confirmed that they had dispatched a detail of 8 TLC officers and  supervisors to the site Thursday night after police requested help with crowd  control.

TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said he was not aware of any other stations  where the TLC had to become involved in a similar manner.

He added that agents were there purely for crowd control, not to stop private  drivers from getting gas.

“It would not be our role to turn people away,” he said.

He said he wasn’t sure whether that station is typically reserved for cabs – but said his understanding was that the owner uses it mostly to service his own  fleet.

He added that the TLC distributed free gas to livery cabs and yellow cabs at  Floyd Bennett field from 9 p.m. Thursday night to 6 a.m. Friday. The TLC also  has a facility in Woodside, a few blocks from Freidman’s station, where cabbies  can also fuel up for free, officials said.

Fromberg noted that a single cab can transport as many as 70 passengers in a  given day.

The spokesman said that he was unaware of any other station refusing  service to locals while selling gas to cab drivers.

A TLC official asked the attendants Thursday if they could let the other cabs  use the open pumps, to no avail.

“I was just saying to this guy, ‘Why can’t you open the rest of these to  serve these cabs faster?'” the official said.

Source: DNA Info


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