By Ben Fractenberg
CITY HALL — A group representing 15,000 city taxi drivers reached a last-minute deal with the city Monday in which they agreed to support a plan to let livery cabs make street pick-ups in northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance signed on to the controversial plan after convincing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Taxi and Limousine Commission to agree to provisions in the legislation — which is currently in the state Assembly.
Concessions to yellow cab drivers include an "anti-illegal street hails" enforcement unit with no less than 60 police officers, a reduction to the current credit card fee in cabs from 5 percent to 4 percent and a reduction in the number of proposeed street hail permits sold in the first year from 30,000 to 22,000, according to the Taxi Workers Alliance.
Negotiations went through on Monday morning even as hundreds of yellow cab drivers protested along Broadway outside of City Hall to show their opposition to Bloomberg’s plan.
"In the course of one weekend the mayor and his cronies in Albany are trying to put us out of business," Greater New York Taxi Association Executive Director Ethan Gerber shouted in front of the steps of City Hall.
Under the original deal proposed by the Bloomberg administration, livery cars equipped with three-year, $1,500 permits would be allowed to operate north of 96th Street on the east side and north of 110th Street on the west.
The new deal would reportedly allow 500 permits a year for three years.
The Taxi Workers Alliance’s executive director, Bhairavi Desai, said the groups protesting Monday represented taxi garages and leasing organizations whose primary concern may not be the economic wellbeing of drivers.
"We feel more secure in the changes that are about to come," Desai said at a 4 p.m. press conference in front of City Hall.
Desai went on to say she didn't want to pit livery drivers against yellow cab drivers or hurt ridership in "underserved areas."
Bloomberg’s office said it hoped the added support would help push through the legislation.
"This proposal is the result of months of input and consideration and has broad support, so we are hopeful it will pass very soon," said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.
It was unclear what percentage of the drivers represented by the alliance was aware of the deal and if they would support it.
Drivers at the earlier rally showed great concern over the original plan.
"If livery cars are allowed to pick up in the streets it takes away from the yellow cabs' fare," Andrew Tsao, 36. "It would be a huge percent drop in income."
Tsao said he’s afraid he could lose up to 25 percent of his income.
The Bloomberg administration decided to go through the state legislature after failing to broker a deal that satisfied both livery car and cab drivers.