This stunning shakedown — snapped by Post photographers — is just one of the hundreds that doormen at swanky hotels demand every day from helpless cabbies, the hacks complain.
The Paramount Hotel’s concierge, Brian Conboy, was spotted demanding money in exchange for lucrative airport-bound fares — not only from this driver but about a dozen others during a two-day period last week.
Photographers snapped him shaking down three drivers on Friday and Saturday, and reporters observed several others.
When confronted by The Post, Conboy spilled the beans about the sleazy practice.
“They do this all over the city,” Conboy said, when asked about demanding the dough.
“I never take money unless they give it to me. I never argue about getting money from them. I’m an old-timer,” Conboy pleaded when confronted.
When questioned about the hotel’s policy and how much money he pocketed each day from the cabby shakedown, Conboy said, “I don’t want to talk about this” and quickly retreated into the hotel lobby.
Doormen will often demand from $5 to $15 for the fares, telling drivers that if they don’t pay up they’ll be blacklisted from the hotels’ taxi stands.
It’s been going on for decades. At this point, drivers automatically slip doormen or porters the right amount of cash for the corresponding trips — $5 to La Guardia, $10 to JFK and $15 to Newark.
Taxi and Limousine Commission officials are investigating the practice, and the agency’s chief sent a letter to hotel managers asking them to rein in their staff.
“I’ve heard too many complaints about this for it not to have basis in fact,” TLC Commissioner David Yassky said. “We’ve had repeated complaints from drivers and taxi owners that doormen are taking advantage of drivers.”
Since the practice isn’t technically illegal and the TLC has no jurisdiction over doormen, Yassky hopes hotel brass will be persuaded to crack down.
The TLC does have one nuclear option. If doormen pass up legitimate yellow-cab drivers who won’t pay the kickback and instead detour patrons into unlicensed black cars — which happens frequently — the TLC can issue a cease-and-desist order to the hotel for operating an illegal base.
If the hotel doesn’t comply within 10 days, the TLC can shutter the facility, sources said.
The Post also caught three other shakedowns on video last week outside the Paramount, W and Hilton hotels in Midtown.
“When you don’t give them what they want, they turn you down. They won’t give us fares. Going to the airport is good money for us, and it’s not fair,” said Mohammed Abdulaziz Adika, who had to dole out $10 outside the Paramount on Friday.
The Paramount doorman who took money had no comment.
His co-worker said that even though the practice isn’t supposed to happen, doormen feel like they deserve a finder’s fee.
“Doormen are not supposed to take money, but it’s like a barter system: We give them the good airport jobs and they give us a little cash,” he said. “We are not allowed to do it, but we have to make a living.”
Sils Aime was behind the wheel for the W hotel caper. He had to hand over $15 for a fare to Newark.
“It’s hard, because it cuts into your bottom line. They ask you for money and it hurts your income,” he said.
The W doorman, who said his name was Wesley, denied demanding certain sums of cash: “They can give me whatever they want.”