Reporting Stan Brooks
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Several hundred taxi drivers rallied Tuesday outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office on Tuesday to urge him to veto a bill that would allow livery cabs to pick up street hails in New York City’s outer boroughs.
The drivers shouted “Fix the bill!” and hoisted signs that said “This bill kills jobs!” Working cabbies honked in solidarity as they cruised up Third Avenue.
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“We want the mayor to know that we’re going to achieve what he wants. We’re going achieve doing street hails in the outer boroughs, but not the way he wants to move it forward,” Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said.
The bill passed by the Legislature would create as many as 30,000 permits allowing livery drivers to pick up street hails in the boroughs outside Manhattan and in parts of Upper Manhattan north of Central Park. The permits would cost $1,500.
Backers say the bill will provide better transportation options for people outside of the Manhattan neighborhoods where yellow taxis are plentiful.
They also say it will legalize the common practice of livery drivers picking up street hails.
“This is giving legitimacy to an industry that has not been recognized,” said Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, a Manhattan Democrat and a sponsor of the bill.
But opponents at Tuesday’s rally said allowing livery cabs to pick up street hails would devalue the taxi medallions that cost yellow cab drivers hundreds of thousands of dollars. And they said livery drivers in the outer boroughs would ignore prearranged pickups in favor of street hails.
Darlene Sanchez, who owns a livery cab service, or base, in Brooklyn, said customers depend on her drivers to take them to doctors’ appointments and other commitments.
Sanchez said she fears that if the street-hail bill becomes law, her customers “will be late to that appointment. They will be late to work. They will be late to pick up this 2-year-old from school.” She said that would happen because the driver “decided to pick up two or three street hails before that appointment.”
Yellow cab drivers said their medallions will be worthless if they lose exclusive rights to street hails.
“When I purchased my medallion the city promised me when I spent close to $400,000 on a medallion that I would have the exclusive street hail to pick up the passengers from the five boroughs,” said cabbie Jawaid Toppa. “I have given blood and sweat and my fellow drivers have sacrificed their lives for this industry.”
Cuomo said in a statement that he hoped to reconcile the competing interests. Although the bill was passed in June, it has not been sent to the governor for his signature.
“The optimum goal is to design a plan that provides taxi access to the outer boroughs, access to the disabled, revenue for the city, and respects the medallion franchise,” he said.
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