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Divided Interests Converge At City Taxi Summit

05/11/2011
Officials met Friday with yellow and livery cab representatives during a summit on taxis organized by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, bringing them all one step closer to a deal despite some tension on street-hail permits and accessibility for the disabled. NY1’s Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s taxi plan has been stalled for months, stuck in Albany gridlock.

To jump start it, key players got together Friday in a closed-door meeting organized by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

“It brings us closer to having a bill that represents and addresses the concerns of the yellows and the livery industry,” said Cira Angeles of Livery Base Owners, Inc.

Bloomberg wants to issue as many as 30,000 permits to livery cabs so they can pick up street hails legally for the first time, though only in the boroughs outside of Manhattan.

The so-called black cabs would also have to use meters and install credit card machines.

However, Cuomo wants to make sure there’s access for the disabled and that the plan doesn’t cut into the business of the yellow cabs.

Meanwhile, the livery cab industry is divided.

“I’d like to see most of the bill changed,” said Fernando Mateo of the Federation of Taxi Drivers.

With so many stakeholders, the deal remains complicated. For instance, there’s the issue of wheelchair accessibility.

“Neither the liveries nor the yellow cab industry disagreed when we said all new street hails should be accessible,” said James Weisman of the United Spinal Association.

There’s also a push by liveries to pick up both street hails and people that call ahead.

“Our base is 60 percent is call ahead, 40 percent of the business is street hails, and we want to make sure that continues. That’s the only way some drivers can survive,” said Eduardo Castell of Livery Base Owners and Drivers, Inc.

Some wonder if the city should issue permits or medallions.

“What we want is a system that will protect our incomes and not only look at the value of the medallions, and so for us, that means a permit for the outer boroughs and not a new medallion,” said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

The mayor insisted during his radio show Friday that the governor is on his side.

“He assured me he wanted, he thought this would be a few minor changes, used the word minor a number of times, and he would get it done. He knows how important it is to New York City to provide taxi service in all the boroughs,” said Bloomberg.

In a statement, the governor said discussions will continue before he signs off.

While stakeholders say they are one step closer to reaching an agreement, they don’t expect one immediately. For now, another meeting has not been scheduled.

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