When it comes to improving taxi service in the boroughs beyond Manhattan, the Bloomberg administration is quickly learning that even the most well-intentioned plans can get swept up by politics and the sometimes divisive preferences of the taxi and livery cab industries.
But this week, the city’s efforts gained some momentum when the City Council unanimously passed legislation that would increase fines for taxi drivers who refuse to take passengers to any requested destination in the five boroughs. Some drivers with multiple offenses would even face having their licenses suspended. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to sign the legislation in the coming weeks.
If a plan to create new medallions moves forward, some livery drivers are lobbying to make sure they benefit from these changes. Fernando Mateo, founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said that he had met repeatedly with City Hall officials and that he had recently shared his concerns with Councilman James Vacca, chairman of the Council’s Transportation Committee.
Mr. Mateo argues that his livery cab drivers have spent decades toiling in the more dangerous neighborhoods, where yellow cabs will not venture. He has asked the city to set aside half of the proposed medallions for livery drivers, at affordable prices.
“Offer it to the people who have worked in these neighborhoods,” Mr. Mateo said. “Don’t just put the medallions out there for the big-money corporations.”
But the yellow cab community contends that it, too, has struggled to purchase medallions, and deserves to receive new business in the boroughs outside Manhattan as well.
“These guys aren’t rich. They borrowed money from their families and friends,” said Vincent Sapone, the managing director of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners. “It’s got to work out in a way where someone can make some sort of a living.”