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Cabbies decry livery plan

Hundreds of taxi drivers in bright yellow T-shirts demonstrated at City Hall Monday against a proposal that would allow livery cabs to make street pickups in the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan.

"Hail no, this plan must go!" they chanted as passing cabs honked in support.

The bill in Albany could come up for a vote as early as today and has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city lawmakers who say residents outside of central Manhattan should be able to hail cabs easily. Right now, it's illegal for livery cabs to accept passengers hailing them from the street, but many drivers do so anyway.

"It's long past time that we have equitable taxi service in all five boroughs," Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said in a statement.

But yellow-taxi drivers and owners say they saved for years to buy expensive medallions that gave them exclusive rights to do street pickups.

The medallions can go for as much as $800,000. Drivers say their value will plummet if they face competition from livery cabs.

The city has 13,237 yellow taxis. According to GPS data collected by the taxi commission, 97 percent of their pickups are in central Manhattan and the city's two airports. But 80 percent of the city's population lives outside Manhattan.

The bill would allow the commission to issue 30,000 street hail permits for use in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and northern Manhattan. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who supports the bill, said the city has 38,000 livery cabdrivers.

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

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