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Governor Announces Deal on Livery Cab Street Hail Plan

By Jill Colvin | December 20, 2011 6:52pm | Updated on December 20, 2011 8:35pm
Livery Cabs will be able to pick up street hails uptown under a new plan.
Livery Cabs will be able to pick up street hails uptown under a new plan.
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Chris Hondros/Getty Images

MANHATTAN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal Tuesday that will allow thousands of livery cabs to pick up street hails legally in Upper Manhattan and in the outer boroughs.

The so-called "five borough taxi plan," proposed by the mayor with the aim of making cabs more accessible across the city, will create up to 18,000 new permits that will allow livery drivers to pick up passengers legally on the street.

Under the agreement, 6,000 street hail permits will be sold each year, for the next three year, with 20 percent required to be handicapped-accessible, by law.

The permits will start out at $1,500 each.

As part of the deal, the state will also sell 2,000 new pricey yellow cab medallions — 500 more than the original plan — all of which will be reserved for wheelchair-accessible cabs.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will sign the city's
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will sign the city's "five borough taxi" after weeks of debate
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Getty Images/Spencer Platt

“This is more than a good bill," the governor said at a press conference in Albany announcing the deal after weeks of negotiation and a day before his deadline to act.

The bill, which has already passed the State Assembly and Senate, had appeared to be on life support due to disagreements over how many of the cabs should be accessible and how the city would would encourage drivers to switch their cars.

“I was not going to sign a bill that didn’t adequately address it," the governor said.

To provide an incentive, the city has agreed to pay drivers up to $15,000 per license to put toward retrofitting their cabs or buying new cars, the governor said.

In addition, the Taxi and Limousine Commission will be forced to create a long-term plan to make the rest of the city’s yellow cabs handicapped-accessible, and will have to submit a plan to the state Department of Transportation if it wants more than 400 of the new yellow cab medallions sold.

A TLC spokesman said he did not expect the requirement to impact the city's transition to the "Taxi of Tomorrow" model, which TLC Commissioner David Yassky noted has the capacity to be accessible as well.

The mayor has been banking on $1 billion in revenue from the new medallions to help fill a multi-billion dollar budget gap, and had even launched a ticket blitz to punish those who opposed.

But he remained confident through the negotiations that the governor would approve the plan, telling reporters again Tuesday afternoon that he was "sure" he and the governor would come to an agreement in the end.

He hailed the deal Monday as the end of a decades-long struggle to provide cab service city-wide.

“The long quest for five borough taxi service will soon be a reality and it will positively impact our city’s quality of life for decades to come,” said the mayor, who called into the press conference by phone from City Hall.

Edith Prentiss, chair of the Taxis For All Campaign, which has been advocating for full wheelchair accessibility, also praised the plan.

“Today Governor Cuomo is the catalyst in an extraordinary achievement that will finally mean a taxi system that will serve all New Yorkers and visitors,” she said in a statement.

"This deal will mean that people who are disabled will have the same option as every other New Yorker: the ability to travel spontaneously, quickly and easily when they are going to their jobs, to school or just out for a night on the town," she said.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner agreed.

"Not only does this plan add thousands of accessible vehicles to our City’s streets, but it forces the City to develop a long-term plan that is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act," he said.

The governor had had until Wednesday to veto the bill, sign it, or do nothing and let it to pass.