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Hundreds of cabbies rally for guv to reconsider 'outer borough taxi' plan

Taxi protest

Taxi protest Photo Credit: Cabbies honked their horns in support of a rally to alter the 'outer-borough tax' bill / Marc Beja

Hundreds of hacks were outside the governor’s Manhattan office Tuesday to protest a bill proposed by the mayor that would allow livery cabs to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs.

The protesters — made up of cab, livery, and limo drivers — are pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tweak the so-called “outer borough taxi” bill before it gets his signature.

Under the bill, passed by the state legislature in June, the city would offer permits to 30,000 livery cab drivers to legally pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and sell 1,500 regular yellow cab medallions. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pushed for the plan, saying it’s nearly impossible to catch a cab outside Manhattan.

But Fernando Mateo, President of New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, which represents yellow, black and livery cab drivers, said the current bill is “going to kill two birds with one stone,” by decreasing the value of pricy taxi medallions while driving up livery operators’ costs and making their service less reliable.

“We want the mayor to know that we’re going to achieve what he wants — we’re going to achieve doing street hails in the outer-boroughs, but not the way he wants to move it forward,” Mateo said Tuesday across the street from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Third Avenue office, adding, “the governor can save both industries.”

Many of the groups that oppose the bill suggest the city sell medallions instead of permits to livery drivers in the outer boroughs, which would be a better investment for drivers, and easier to police if they break rules. Under either plan, drivers can choose to either continue prearranged trips, or to pay a fee to pick up hails.

The current bill does have some proponents.

Bhairavi Desai of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which now supports the plan after originally blasting it, said an outer-borough medallion would be too costly for drivers to afford.

“They’re going to have an extra expense to pay, but they’re not going to have enough fares to make up for it,” Desai said of livery drivers that would pay for a medallion instead of a $1,500 permit if the plan is changed.

Cuomo has indicated he is open to adjusting the bill, but hasn’t offered how he would do so.

“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 in a statement yesterday. “We are working to fashion a plan that fairly balances those goals. I will not approve a plan that doesn't."


Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @Marc_Beja

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