Assembly Passes NYC Taxi Bill To Expand Pickups

by Associated Press
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Yellow Cab outside Grand Central Terminal
Annmarie Hordern/WFUV

Bill gives livery cab owners the option to purchase a permit which would allow them to pick up street hails in Upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs.

Dozens of yellow cabs from New York City lined the streets around the state Capitol on Tuesday as cabbies rallied against legislation to let livery drivers legally pick up passangers who hail them in the city's four outer boroughs and northern Manhattan.

The Assembly passed the bill by a 110-28 vote. Republican Senator Martin Golden told drivers that talks were continuing with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to see if something else can be worked out.

Drivers who own taxi medallions or lease cabs from medallion owners said they'll lose money along with the exclusive legal right to street hails in the city. They said most of the 30,000 to 40,000 cab drivers, many of them immigrants, individually earn about $80 to $100 for a 12-hour shift after paying up to $129 for the lease and $40 for the gas.

According to the medallion drivers, lax enforcement officers already let livery drivers scoop their fares.

"They're picking up, but it's illegal," driver Mohammed Hossain said. 'They're only call services."

About 100 demonstrators gathered at the Capitol outside the Senate chamber, urging passing senators to vote no.

"We hear you. We understand it," said Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, addressing the crowd. "We are talking to the mayor to see what we can come up with."

The demonstrators then moved to the hallway outside the Assembly chamber while the bill was being debated.

Some lawmakers said they see no yellow cabs in their boroughs but can call livery services and get a ride in a few minutes.

The city has more than 13,000 yellow taxis. According to GPS data collected by the taxi commission, 97 percent of their pickups are in central Manhattan and at the city's two airports. But 80 percent of the population lives outside Manhattan.

In a sponsor's memo, Bronx Assemblyman Car Heastie said the goal is reaching under-served areas and making travel more accessible to the disabled. It would also allow as many as 30,000 hail privilege permits to for-hire vehicles and 450 permits to base stations.

The hail privilege permits would cost $1,500 each and be valid for three years.

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who supports the bill, has said the city has 38,000 livery cab drivers.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat, said it's not a perfect bill, but it allows zones in the city to be protected for medallion owners. "It gives working-class people on the outer boroughs the ability to pick up in the street. The bill is an empowerment bill for them," he said.

Cabbies said an individual medallion now costs nearly $700,000 and the legislation will devalue that by putting more on the market. Heastie said the legislation already protects them. "Lower Manhattan and the airports are no-fly zones. It doesn't hurt the yellows," he said.

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