Taxi Protest at City Hall

The mayor is slowly picking up support for his plan to increase cab service in the outer boroughs and in upper Manhattan.

Just hours after calling the proposal “devastating,” Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai switched gears, and announced her support of the plan Monday. The Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the City Council also backed the plan, as did the Livery Base Owners.

State legislators introduced bills over the weekend that would offer permits to 30,000 livery cab drivers to legally pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and to sell 1,500 regular yellow cab medallions.

Several unions representing cab and livery owners and drivers — including the Taxi Workers Alliance — slammed the plan and held a protest Monday afternoon at City Hall. They said it would hurt both groups.

In a meeting between the mayor’s office and the Taxi Workers Alliance, the city agreed to a slower rollout of the “outer-borough” taxis and new regular yellow cabs, lower credit card fees for taxi drivers from 5 to 4 percent and to increase enforcement of illegal street hails and overcharging at taxi garages. Desai then agreed to back the plan.

“Our support was contingent on us being able to, in good conscience, to say to our members that they will remain whole,” Desai said, adding that the city’s agreement would help lessen the financial blow of legalizing livery cab street hails.

That wasn’t enough for several other taxi unions, who planned another rally at the state capitol Tuesday morning.

“This is going to kill community service, it’s going to kill the [livery dispatch] bases and it’s also going to create a meltdown in the yellow cab industry,” said Fernando Mateo, President of New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, which represents yellow, black and livery cab drivers.

The mayor’s office said yellow cabs pick up more than 97 percent of passengers in Manhattan and at airports – where livery cabs wouldn’t be allowed to go – and that they hope the law will soon pass.

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