A city crackdown on livery cab drivers who cruised for furniture-lugging passengers at the remote Ikea in Red Hook has led the Swedish home-furnishings behemoth to create a livery dispatch station for shoppers.
The gigantic Beard Street emporium was a fertile hunting grounds for fares until police and the Taxi and Limousine Commission swept through the area last month, issuing summonses for illicit pickups and even confiscating vehicles from unregistered drivers.
Commissioner Matthew Daus said the agency was merely “responding to some complaints about illegal activity at Ikea.”
The efforts have not completely curbed black-market cabbies though. Just last Wednesday, an argument between rival chauffeurs erupted into violence with one hack hitting the other with a baseball bat. Police arrested the slugger.
With the exception of the beating, a spokesman for Ikea said the store was unaware of rogue car services circling their one-year-old megastore.
But the dispatcher from Cobble Hill Car Service, the officially recognized fleet at the Red Hook Ikea, said the store wanted to ward off the freelancing cabbies.
“Before, it was mixed up,” said Naser Bawy, whose company has been chauffeuring Ikea customers for more than a month. “Cars would come with private license plates and charge varying rates. Now the dispatcher is responsible and everyone gets the same rates.”
Shoppers are supposed to go to a booth to make arrangements for a ride in one of the waiting cars at fixed rates, but a Brooklyn Paper reporter observed one woman successfully haggle a $15 ride to Carroll Gardens down to $10 by threatening to call another company.
City law allows only yellow cabs to pick up passengers. To legally hop into a registered livery cab, passengers must first call the company to request a car.
Still, unlawful cab service is widespread in the outer boroughs. And entrepreneurial livery drivers cruising for business at Ikea is an inevitable development of the store’s distant location in a mass-transit starved neighborhood.
But for now, the store’s security detail keeps its vigilant eyes peeled for illicit pickups.
“If anyone comes by to pick up customers illegally, security removes them,” Bawy told The Brooklyn Paper.
— with Jacob Kleinman