Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he and the Legislature have agreed on a plan that greatly expands New York City taxi service to the outer boroughs and brings an anticipated $1 billion in revenue to the city to ease a budget shortfall.
"The new law will make getting around town easier, safer and less costly for millions of New Yorkers," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "It will make an enormous improvement in the getting of service for people with disabilities that need to have the ability to get around."
Under the compromise plan, the city will sell 18,000 of a new kind of permit that lets livery cabs pick up passengers who hail them on the street in upper Manhattan and the four other boroughs. Manhattan below 96th Street and the city's two airports will be off limits to this new class of taxis.
The city will provide grants of up to $15,000 to retrofit vehicles to accommodate the disabled or to purchase accessible vehicles.
The plan also authorizes the city to sell 2,000 new medallions, all of which will be restricted to vehicles that are wheelchair-accessible.
"The bill as originally passed failed to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and did not provide any incentive for the livery industry to ensure disabled New Yorkers had full access to the taxicab system," Cuomo said.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said the deal announced Tuesday was "an improved piece of legislation that provides much-needed revenue for the City of New York and serves the needs of its residents and all of the interested parties."
Bloomberg said the plan is the realization of a goal that has eluded the city for three decades.
The new law will bring legal taxi service to 7 million people outside of Manhattan's central business district and will make more cabs accessible to the disabled. It will generate $1 billion for the city, Bloomberg said.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz says the plan will also offer considerable legal protection to livery cab drivers, many of whom are immigrants.
The bill allowing livery cabs to pick up street hails in New York City's outer boroughs stirred angry protests this fall from cabbies, who said their costly taxi medallions would be worthless if they lost exclusive rights to street hails.
Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said he supports the governor's approach and believes the changes negotiated in the bill will address at least 70 percent of taxi driver's concerns, but he doesn't think it will really work.
"We shall see. I believe that the livery industry will survive and I believe that those drivers that do switch over to do street hails will realize how expensive it is and will ultimately reject it," Mateo said.