Reporting John Metaxas
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to allow livery cabs to accept fares in the outer boroughs is now in the fast lane after the largest group of taxi workers had a change of heart.
It was a switch of gears for the Taxi Workers Alliance – suddenly supporting the mayor’s bill to let livery cabs pick up fares after some last minute concessions from the city.
“We have agreed to no more than 22,000 street hail permits will be sold in the first twelve months,” Bhairavi Desai, the head of the Taxi Workers Alliance, said Monday afternoon.
The legislation had originally called for up to 30,000 permits to be sold. In a statement on the Taxi Workers Alliance’s website, the organization states “we believe we have developed a program that ensures the economic security of yellow taxi cab drivers, our members, and provides service to the communities of the city that have been traditionally underserved. Therefore, we add our support to S-5825-2011 / A-8496.”
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Though the bill was sneaked into the state legislature on Father’s Day — circumventing the City Council — the plan now even has the support of some outer borough council members.
“A lot of us who live in the outer boroughs — we don’t see the yellow cabs. This is a great opportunity now for our people to have true access,” Councilman Fernando Cabrera told CBS 2′s John Metaxas.
Under the bill, livery cab owners could buy the outer borough permits for $1,500. The new class of livery cabs would have meters and credit card readers in addition to being painted a different color to differentiate them from yellow cabs. Livery cabs would also be required to install meters, GPS devices and credit card readers.
It’s not clear when Albany legislators will get to the bill.
Earlier in the day however, hundreds of taxi drivers dressed in bright yellow T-shirts gathered at City Hall to protest the plan. The drivers contended Mayor Bloomberg was trying to wreck their livelihood with the measure.
“People who live in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island deserve to have the same ability to flag down a taxi as Manhattanites do,” TLC Commissioner David Yassky told 1010 WINS. “I think it’s absolutely the right move.”
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“We want to make sure that the yellow taxi industry remains strong and healthy and we are absolutely committed to enforcement to make sure that the borough taxis stay in the boroughs and don’t poach in Manhattan,” Yassky said.
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Opponents said the proposal would drive thousands of yellow cabbies out of business. Yellow cab drivers chanted “Hail No, This Plan Must Go” and said a sudden flood of cabs doing street pickups would create unfair competition.
“I’ve been driving 41 years and I want to say that this plan stinks,” driver Aaron Platt said.
Brooklyn Councilman Lou Fidler said the plan will turn Flatbush Avenue into the “Wild West.”
“The impact on the taxis really isn’t there but the impact on 80 percent of New Yorkers who live in Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island is very real,” Yassky said.
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Yassky claims the new legislation would provide the outer boroughs with “legal, safe and reliable options.”
He added the changes “will not only increase availability but also increase passenger protections.”
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