A passenger got into a cab in the Chinatown part of New York City at around 2 a.m. Friday and held the driver virtually hostage for more than 10 hours as she ordered him around town in search of a hotel she liked. Shira Belfer, 62, refused to give up the taxi, the cabby said.
“We go to the next [hotel], the next one, the next one . . . She’d say, ‘No, this price is too high — make it cheaper,’ ” the driver, Kulvinder Singh Ahluwalia, told The New York Post.
Ahluwalia, 41, said it all began when police officers forced Belfer into his cab after she got booted from a hotel near Allen and Madison streets.“A cop pulled me over, and they said that this lady has been kicked out from a hotel. ‘Can you take her to another hotel?’ ” Ahluwalia said.
The cop asked him to take Belfer to the Redford Hotel on 136 Ludlow St., about three blocks away. “When we get to Redford Hotel, she says that there’s no rooms available for the categories [she] was looking for,” Ahluwalia said. He proceeded to drive Belfer to more than 15 more hotels and even called several online-booking sites thinking he would be compensated.
But as the morning wore on, “I’m getting bananas because there’s no check-in until 3 in the afternoon,” Ahluwalia said. “She just wanted to sit in my car for free. Ahluwalia said that they agreed to turn off the meter after a few hours and settle on a price for all his time.
“She cut my meter. The meter was $150,’’ the driver recalled. “She said, ‘No, we’re going to make a deal with a flat rate, $30 an hour.” He said she ended up giving him $230 total, but $115 of it was eaten up by a parking fine he received while waiting for her at one stop.
The driver said he called police at around 12 p.m. and Belfer finally left his cab. She then started to hassle the cops, and they threatened to have her committed.