Hundreds of livery cab drivers rallied outside of City Hall against the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s new medallion plan.
If you found it hard to get a livery cab on Monday morning, there was a good reason: Nearly 2,000 drivers skipped work to rally outside City Hall against a city proposal to create a separate class of taxis that would pick up street hails outside of most of Manhattan.
The drivers gathered along the west side of City Hall Park, waved posters and chanted “Sí Se Puede” or “Yes We Can,” as several City Council members and State Assembly members spoke at a news conference.
While the livery drivers, who typically work for small operations or for themselves as independent operators, did not always agree about how the plan for areas outside most of Manhattan should be put into effect, they were in solidarity that they could not afford to buy the expensive medallions that the city is proposing. The livery cabs are prohibited from picking up street hails, though that rule is frequently broken.
It is still not clear exactly what form the plan will ultimately take, since the program is still little more than a concept. Livery cab drivers say the latest version of the plan would allow those who buy a yellow cab medallion, which can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to purchase six medallions for areas outside most of Manhattan as well.
It remains unclear how many medallions may be sold and how much they may cost. The plan, intended to improve service in areas outside most of Manhattan, requires approval from the Legislature.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a former livery cab driver whose district in Upper Manhattan includes about 3,000 livery drivers, characterized the proposal as “catastrophic” for existing drivers. Mr. Rodriguez said these drivers were “struggling to survive” as they worked 60 to 70 hours a week.
“Imagine what it’s like to buy a million-dollar home on $35,000 a year,” said Cira Angeles, the spokeswoman for Livery Base Owners Inc., who said the group favored allowing existing drivers to pick up street hails as long as they obtained a separate permit, rather than being required to purchase a medallion.
But not all livery cab owners supported the proposal. Fernando Mateo, founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said he was against a permit system and argued it would drive livery cab operations out of business.
Mr. Mateo praised the plan as a boon to livery drivers and encouraged them to pool their resources to buy these medallions.
Some yellow cab owners fired back at the livery drivers’ protests. The Coalition for Taxi Equality and Justice said the plan would benefit cab drivers who owned and operated their cars, not just wealthy fleet owners.