“Dispatches from the City’s Most Elite Drivers”
One of the most important events for the TLC every year is our annual Honor Roll Ceremony. On October 11, we had the privilege of recognizing 476 drivers and businesses for their achievements in safety, accessibility, and customer service. However, the day is also a favorite of TLC staffers because we have the chance to listen to the moving stories of professional drivers and businesses, who not only keep the city moving — but do so with an extraordinary level of safety and service.
The life of William Abebrese, 33, of the Bronx’s Concourse neighborhood seems to epitomize the term ‘hard-working.’ He drives a taxi and performs trips for Via, and completed almost 19,000 trips between 2015 and 2017. Abebrese is humble about this accomplishment, but he has one of the highest numbers of trips performed by any honoree. On thousands and thousands of trips, he took passengers safely to their destinations, and without any serious crashes or moving violations.
Abebrese hails originally from Ghana, and came to the United States in 2008. He shared some driving tips that he’s learned from his experiences on New York Streets. He prays before he begins a shift of driving, saying that spirituality helps him keep a clear head. Abebrese also noted that he takes his time while making trips, and is extra careful on the road.
“I do this not just for my safety, but for the safety of the customer and the public,” he said. “Driving safely means I avoid chaos and save time.”
Abebrese also makes sure to rest and takes breaks. Part of his success, he says, is his love of the job — it makes him happy interacting with people from cultures all over the world, and taking them where they need to go. “I am good at my job because I love what I do,” Abebrese said. “If I didn’t love it, I would have stopped. I love driving.”
Other drivers that were honored included Ali Abubakar, a wheelchair-accessible taxi driver who was recognized for both his stellar safety record and his significant contribution to the Accessible Dispatch Program. He brought passengers safely to their destinations on 11,042 rides over three years. Luis Alvarez, a 64-year-old grandfather from the Upper West Side was also celebrated for providing 157 Accessible Dispatch trips within the first few months of driving a wheelchair-accessible taxi.
“Accessible Dispatch trips provide good income, and I find myself feeling more relaxed and less worried about my finances,” he said.
Alvarez particularly likes to make his passengers feel comfortable with his eagerness to take them all over the city. “Passengers tell me that they pray to get someone like me to take them to the Bronx or Brooklyn during rush hour,” he said. “I know exactly how to get them where they are going. I have even picked up the same people twice in one day. I feel good doing this work, and when you do good, it comes back to you.”
The TLC also recognized Dominicana Radio Dispatch, a Corona-based car service with about eighty drivers. Its manager, Felix Suero, spoke during the ceremony about how Domicana’s safety record is a reflection of how its drivers want to make their community a safer and better place.
“Dominicana Radio Dispatcher has always been a community partner. We have held supply collections, and shipped containers for relief to Haiti when it was hit by the earthquake, as well as to the Dominican Republic when it was hit by various natural disasters,” said Suero. “We have also made donations for relief to Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico. Our affiliated drivers love the community they work in, and many of our customers know the drivers by their first name.”
The TLC honored five drivers for customer service for the first time during Honor Roll Ceremony this year. Domingo Fernandez, of Washington Heights, was recognized for helping a passenger track down a city bus to find a lost item.
“Professional drivers are the eyes of our community,” he said. “When she found it, I felt happy helping her, like I had accomplished something. I could see the expression of happiness on her face. You wouldn’t think she would have been able to get it.”
Rebecca Harshbarger works in Public Affairs for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). Before the TLC, she covered transportation and law-enforcement for the New York Post. She has also written for amNewYork, Newsday, and Uganda’s New Vision newspaper.