Harlem Snubbed by Mayor's Plan to Legalize Hailing Livery Cabs
By Ben Fractenberg
HARLEM — Residents in uptown neighborhoods who rely on car service just as much as people in Brooklyn or the Bronx were surprised to learn Tuesday that they would be left out of a proposal by the mayor to finally make it legal to hail a livery cab on the street.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was expected to unveil a plan during his State of the City address Wednesday that would allow New Yorkers to hail livery cabs in all the boroughs, but Manhattan, according to an excerpt of his speech released Tuesday.
The new rules are meant to address the difficulty of hailing cabs in the outer boroughs. But Harlem residents pointed out you can't catch a cab there, either.
"[Yellow cabs] never pick you up unless you're going to the airport,” said Harlem resident Ronnie Lomax, 54.
Lomax said being able to pick up livery cabs on the street is a necessity in Harlem and Washington Heights because other means of public transportation are not always so reliable.
"You always need a cab because the buses don't run on time," he said.
While hailing a livery cab is generally not difficult in the city, it's currently illegal. The mayor was expected to change that beginning with his speech Wednesday.
"Why shouldn’t someone in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Staten Island be able to hail a legal cab on the street?" Bloomberg will say in his speech, according to excerpts released by City Hall. "This year, we’ll establish a new category of livery cars that can make on-street pickups outside of Manhattan — just like yellow cabs do."
Under the proposal, livery cab drivers that want to be able to pick up passengers on the street will have to agree to GPS tracking, as yellow cabs do and allow passengers to use credit cards to pay for their fare.
According to a memo from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, 97.5 percent of yellow cab trips originate in the core of Manhattan or area airports while 80 percent of New Yorkers live in the outer boroughs.
Despite the exclusion of Washington Heights, Inwood and Harlem from the mayor's proposal, both residents and driver said the hailing of cars would likely continue on the streets.
"If you don't allow people in Manhattan to get a cab in the street you are gonna hurt a lot of people," said driver Mohamed Doumbia, 52, who has been driving in Harlem for 18 years. "How can you call every time you need a car?"