Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
In a stunning reversal, a group representing thousands of the city’s taxi drivers threw its support behind legislation that would allow livery cabs to pick up street hails despite its intention to attend a protest of the plan Monday.
The Taxi Workers Alliance, a day after denouncing the legislation, said Monday that it would support legislation introduced in Albany over the weekend that would allow New York City residents in the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan to legally hail livery cabs.
“After decades we have finally we come to the day where we say lets allow livery drivers do street hails if they apply for their license,” said Upper Manhattan Councilman and former livery driver Ydanis Rodriguez, who previously was against the proposal.
The city, according to the TWA, sweetened the deal, vowing to lower credit card fees from 5 to 4 percent; launch a task force to look into creating a health and wellness fund for drivers; weigh the removal of turn restrictions on buses; and phase in any sale of taxi medallions and outer borough permits.
The TWA was among yellow taxi groups planning to attend a protest at City Hall Monday, where hundreds of yellow-T-shirt clad drivers demonstrated against the legislation – a plan that has shown how divided the industry is since not all livery groups support the plan and not all taxi drivers are against it.
The biggest concern over the bill is that the sale of 30,000 new permits legalizing outer borough and upper Manhattan street hails -- sold for $1500 -- would devalue pricey medallions.
"The medallion is just a piece of tin”, said Ethan Gerber of the Greater New York Taxi Association. “What it carries with it are rights and if you give those rights away on the one hand you can’t sell them on the other.”
Yellow medallions can sell at auction for close to a million dollars and owners say they purchased those medallions and took long term loans in many cases with the understanding ownership provided them with exclusivity.
“You can’t take from one group to give to the other,” said Fernando Matteo, President of New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers and livery base owner, who vowed to fight the plan. “You can’t take from one group who invested their life savings and give it to another group that doesn’t even want it—we don’t want permits.”
Mayoral aide Mark Botnick said a vote on the 5 Borough taxi Bill could come as early as Tuesday, since there’s usually a 3-day wait between introduction and vote.