UPDATE: A Brief History of Exploding Taxis

Ah the taxi–self-reliant, efficient, posh, immigrant driven–in short, the emblem New York City.  New York has a long and storied history with the yellow, one lovingly chronicled by hacks, historians, econimists, organizers and the occasional interloping blogger. The Taxi and Limousine Commission is New York’s second most lucrative municipal body, just behind parking enforcement, and the 13,000-odd medallion cabs (for 48,000 licensed hacks) are currently worth more than 750,000 each.

But as long as there have been cabs, there have been violent, catestrophic and just plain weird taxi incidents, ranging from the criminally horrific to the merely inexplicable. The millennium saw a rash of violent thefts that left nine (mostly livery or “gypsy” cab) drivers dead and hundreds more terrified to go to work. Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani used the widespread panic (renewed! thanks to a rash of robberies and death this summer) to beef up the number of undercover cop cabs , install “trouble lights” in back of taxis and give the NYPD almost unlimited rights to stop and search cabs without probable cause. For joy.

In case you don’t obsessively check the police blotter, a brief recap of this year’s weird: Dec. 31, 2008, Khadim Hussain Bhatti, a livery cab driver from Coney Island is shot and killed four blocks from home. On April 26th, Coney Island livery cab driver Saleh Al Mullawad admits to stalking and killing a health worker in her home. On May 14th, a Sheepshead Bay livery cab driver Tamiz Din was shot five times in the chest by (police believe) his ex-boyfriend, with whom he  had once shared an apartment in the Bronx.  This summer, three more drivers were slain over a span of two weeks, and trust me, I’m leaving some out.

Let us not forget the scandals: Cabbies always on the phone, hit-and-running 8-year-olds, cabbies creating pile-ups on the UWS, cabbies flipping in Chelsea. Your regular, run-of-the-mill stuff.

And then, there are the explosions.

The most infamous (although it was a yellow van and not a cab that ultimately exploded) was the First World Trade Center bombing in 1993, organized by a Brooklyn taxi driver.

In 2007, two taxi cabs exploded in Midtown for no decernable reason. The first went up in front of Rockefeller Center, The second was determined not to be suspicious and was never investigated.

In 2008, another one exploded in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, just before the Pope was scheduled to speak there.

And then there was today’s incident, in which the engine of a cab sparked for no reason, people, the interesction of 47th and 7th in Times Square.

Because NYC yellow cabs retire every five (ish) years, these are all late model  F0rd Crown Victorias. For all we know, they’re all the same year, or carrying the same whack parts. Or SOMETHING. Maybe if one of these three incidents was ever INVESTIGATED Maybe if the investigations into these three explosions were made public/publicized, then we might KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Then again, I guess no blood no foul.

UPDATE: Blood and Foul! Apparently the city came after  Ford in 2006 after a cabbie died during a firey explosion. So whatever happened with that?


Filed under 3rd World Imagineering

4 responses to “UPDATE: A Brief History of Exploding Taxis

  1. Allan Fromberg

    Sonja, just to clarify a few things…there are 13,237 cabs, not 36,000, and you should note that all vehicles fires are indeed investigated. In fact, the 2006 incident you reference, which caused the tragic death of driver Gurbaj Singh, was far from unprovoked, and in fact was caused by a direct side impact by a speeding vehicle (a phenomenon known as being “t-boned”). The explosion was caused by the impact rupturing a gas line…..the gas tank was never involved and was found to be fully intact after the fire was contained.

    • 3rdworldimagineer

      Sorry Allen (your awesomeness). I have the flu. And an ear infection, so it kind of feels like I’m underwater all the time :(. WHICH IS NO EXCUSE! Thank G-d this is a personal blog and not profesh, or I’d be really really embarrassed, not just a little really embarrassed. I went ahead and corrected the mistakes you pointed out. I’m glad to hear the results of the ’06 fire were sorted out, but wish that some of the findings from the last three fire/explosions would make their way into the public view.
      Allen Fromberg everybody, Defender of Truth and Awesome

  2. Allan Fromberg

    No worries……it wasn’t at all my intent to embarrass. Frankly, I welcome your interest in taxicabs….it’s one that we share! Given the fact that you aren’t in the taxi biz, your base of knowledge is most impressive.

  3. Pingback: UPDATE: Crown Vic Goes Boom « 3rdworldimagineer’s Weblog

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