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Long IslandTowns

Taxi company owner sues over parking spots at LIRR station

Phil Fortuna, owner of Sunset Taxi, stands at

Phil Fortuna, owner of Sunset Taxi, stands at his taxi stand at the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road station. (Feb. 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

A taxi company owner is suing the MTA and the Town of Oyster Bay, alleging that a method of allocating taxi parking spaces at the Hicksville railroad station for nearly 50 years has been illegally changed.

Philip Fortuna, owner of Hicksville-based Sunset Taxi, filed suit in State Supreme Court in Nassau on Feb. 15 seeking to reverse the change. The case stems from a Metropolitan Transportation Authority decision a year ago to award contracts for taxi parking through competitive bidding rather than continuing existing contracts.

In implementing the change in Hicksville this month, Fortuna said, the MTA violated terms of a 1965 lease between the agency, which owns the land, and town, which previously controlled use of taxi space.

But MTA spokesman Salvatore Arena said Wednesday: "We don't agree with their interpretation of the lease . . . The MTA has always retained control of taxi parking rights, which were undervalued for many years."

Arena added that last year "the MTA decided to put taxi concessions at 15 Long Island Rail Road stations up for competitive bidding in an effort to realize their full market value. The public is the ultimate beneficiary because the new agreements at those 15 stations will boost taxi rental income by 75 percent over the next five years."

Fortuna said the MTA eliminated a taxi stand specified in the lease with space for 10 taxis that was shared by his 20 cabs and those from more than eight other firms licensed by the town. That strip of pavement south of the tracks and east of Route 106 and adjacent parking spaces on both sides of the tracks were awarded to two competitors with higher bids.

The result, Fortuna said Wednesday, is he was forced to lease space south of the MTA property. Besides that expense, he said, "my volume of business dropped because a lot of the people, before they get to my office, are intercepted by the other cabs."

And he said the station property is now only served by two cab companies while the 1965 lease specifies at least three must have access. Fortuna also says the number of parking spaces -- 27 -- leased to the two competitors, Oyster Rides and Long Island Yellow Cab, violates the lease, which specifies 22.

Oyster Bay spokeswoman Marta Kane said, "The town will not be commenting, as this is the subject of ongoing litigation."

Oyster Rides Taxi Co., also named in Fortuna's lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment.

Before the change, Long Island Yellow Cab had 10 spaces, Fortuna said, and he had five spots. When the MTA sought bids, Fortuna only bid for the taxi stand area and was outbid by Oyster Rides, which offered $36,633 over five years to Sunset's $34,402.94.

Fortuna, a 30-year veteran of the Nassau County industry and president of the Long Island Taxi Transportation Owners, said he is now renting a storefront just south of the former taxi stand to provide office space and 10 parking spaces for $3,600 a month.

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