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In the past three years, two new restaurants catering to the cabbie crowd have opened on my block near the northern end of Columbus Avenue, right downstairs from my street-facing studio on the third floor of a five-floor building.
When I moved in eight years ago, the block had a tiny Jamaican bar, a very cool restaurant, and a thrift store downstairs. There was often a three piece jazz ensemble playing on summer nights or a folks spilling out from the bar. But the restaurant moved to a bigger space down the street, and the shop and bar have long since closed.
The first new restaurant that opened across the street was an in-and-out place with Halal meat and taxi ledger books for sale in the window. A year later, a bigger place with a fluorescent-lit dining room started serving. Both are open all night.
Now, at any time on any given night, there are at least 20 Yellow Cabs – and a smattering of liveries – parked on both sides of the street, with unlucky ones double parked.
Even though the restaurants are open all day, they're busiest from 10pm until around 2am or later. The cabs take up a lot of the parking and, even though they don’t stay long, there’s always another to take its place.
For understandable reasons, most cabbies don’t want to spend their dinner break sitting down. Instead, they pace up and down the block with their cigarettes. I don’t object to those activities, except when smoke and loud cell phone conversations reach me on the third floor at 2:00am. And they do.
From time to time, there are disagreements. A recent fender bender ended up in a screaming fight between two drivers, apparently full of pent-up road rage. The cops arrived before it came to fisticuffs.
If I were looking for an apartment now, I might keep a wary eye out for photographs of Yellow Cabs emblazoned on awnings or neon signs saying “Taxi Stop.”
But I'm not going anywhere. My apartment is rent-stabilized and has great storage; I still love living here, despite the new crowd downstairs. I enjoyed the previous businesses a bit more, although that was before the smoking ban. Perhaps I really would be complaining about bar patrons if that little bar had stayed open.
And on the plus side, I can always find a cab, no matter what the hour.