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10. Because for Hack-Starved Outer-Boroughites, the New Yellow Taxi Is Green


Illustration by Giacomo Gambineri  

After a lengthy legal battle, the apple-green cabs finally launched this year. Not only were they a resounding success with non-Manhattan residentspeople in Astoria alone have hailed them over 24,000 timesthey’re also a lifeline to drivers who can’t afford the seven-figure auction price of a yellow-cab medallion. Brooklynite Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky has claimed that through the outer-borough taxis, livery drivers and their families are realizing an American dream while helping their neighbors and their communities. By the looks of Grand Limo, he has at least one rags-to-empire story already.

Out of the roughly 1,000 green cabs currently on the road, about 390 are run through Grand Limo, a Queens-based livery service owned by Sharif Laskar. A year ago, when it was just black cars, Grand Limo’s entire fleet was 35. They looked very ghetto and unsafe, recalls Sal, Sharif’s son, the company’s 21-year-old manager. A livery like Sharif’s can buy a base license for $3,000, and the first round of drivers put up just $1,500 per medallion. The cost to passengers is the same as a yellow cab, though it comes with a caveat: No Manhattan pickups below East 96th and West 110th Streets.

In the Grand Limo office, which is still squeezed into a teeny two-room storefront in Astoria, Sharif sits at his desk, which faces the only wall décor: a poster-size $100 bill on which Franklin’s head is nearly to scale. How do you call this? Word-of-mouth,’  says Sharif about how he built his driver army. Sal did much of the initial recruiting: I got a couple of guys and we went to the masjids, and after prayer we just gave out these flyers. Now drivers call it home. Though at this point, he adds, it’s a pretty big family.


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