Mayor Bloomberg, it seems, has put aside his fears that his daughters could be mistaken as hookers, and signed an anti-sex trafficking bill Friday designed to help taxi drivers "ID prostitutes and tell them about available resources." The bill also means hacks will face harsher punishments for knowingly transporting sex workers.
Hizzoner signed the bill on his weekly Friday radio show. "As we are speaking, I am signing the bill," he said.
Bloomberg had decided to wait on signing Wednesday at a bill-signing ceremony, frustrating City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who said the mayor's hesitation demonstrated a "fundamental misunderstanding of what our bill does: making sure convicted traffickers are punished for their crimes.”
Bloomberg had expressed concern that the bill would prevent cabbies from picking up women dressed provocatively.
"I do worry that if my daughters are out there after they’re at a club and they come out late at night and they’re dressed a lot more risque-ly, if that’s a word, than people of my generation did, but still appropriately for this generation, it does put a taxi driver in a difficult position,” Bloomberg said.
"You know, if I were a young lady and I dressed in a ‘sporty way’—or however you want to phrase it...I would not want somebody thinking that I’m a prostitute,” he added. "There’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe it’s not appropriate to go to the workplace, but at night, sometimes sure, why not.”
Last Thursday a group of women gathered outside City Hall to protest the bill. "They don't even know who is a prostitute or not!" said Diana Estrada, a bartender who often works wearing miniskirts.
Laurel W. Eisner, of Sanctuary for families-- an advocacy group instrumental in the bill's creation-- defended the bill, telling Gothamist:
"The law will not discourage drivers from picking up "sex workers" or women dressed in any particular way. The law will discourage drivers from engaging in crimes involving sex trafficking, which entail actively participating in and profiting from coerced prostitution. A driver must first be criminally convicted of one of the enumerated felony crimes under existing penal law before being subject to the civil penalties of this law. Picking up a passenger in the ordinary course of business does not implicate the State penal law and does not trigger the provisions of this bill."
Cabbies caught trafficking someone involved in prostitution would lose their license on their first offense, and in the second, could face a fine as high as $10,000.
In April, a father/son team was arrested for allegedly operating a brutal sex trafficking business in Manhattan--a "brothel on wheels"--in which they branded the prostitutes with tattoos.
Six livery cab drivers were also arrested in connection with the business. You can see a very sad photo of all of them in court here.