Home Taxis Taxi bill on his desk, Cuomo hesitates

Taxi bill on his desk, Cuomo hesitates

by Benjamin Kabak

A hybrid taxi roams the streets of New York City in 2007. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

As the flurry of legislative activity wrapped up in Albany last month, the Assembly and Senate took taxicab matters into their own hands. With some urging from Mayor Bloomberg, state representatives chose to act with the knowledge that the City Council would kowtow to the demands of the medallion owners and stymy the bill. Now, nearly a month later, we wait to see if Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign the bill or veto it. Whose interests is he protecting?

The plan, as I’ve outlined in the past, is geared toward ensuring that underserved areas of the city can legally hail taxis. The plan will put up for sale 30,000 medallions for $1500 with conditions. These medallions can only be used for street hails north of 96th St. in Manhattan and anywhere in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. They are designed to improve access to taxis while ensuring that areas where current taxi drivers say they pick up just three percent of passengers have legitimate street service.

In The Times today, Christine Haughney goes behind the scenes at the intense lobbying taking place in Albany. Cuomo has allowed the bill to sit on his desk for the better part of a month as he mulls over the fate of surface transportation for millions of New Yorkers who live in areas underserved by yellow cabs. He has been silent. She reports:

The fleet owners have stepped up efforts to persuade the governor to veto the legislation, arguing that the measure could jeopardize one of the city’s most vital industries. David Pollack, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, a group that handles leasing operations for yellow medallions, said taxi drivers continue to send letters and call the governor’s office to oppose a plan that “would devastate 50,000 hard-working taxi drivers by flooding the market with new taxis.”

Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, echoed Mr. Pollack’s fears, adding that these cars would limit yellow taxi service. “We are currently educating the governor’s office on the many policy, economic, procedural, legal, operational and logistical problems with this bill,” Mr. Woloz said…

Micah C. Lasher, Mr. Bloomberg’s chief lobbyist in Albany, said the mayor would continue to talk with the governor about how “this represents important and very positive public policy for the residents of New York City.” At the same time, Mr. Lasher said, “we plan to be responsive to the concerns of medallion owners in implementing the plan.”

While medallion owners are lobbying against the bill, the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Yassky says residents are eager for the changes. “We’ve gotten tremendous reaction from people in Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx,” he said to The Times. “Not a day goes by when I don’t hear people say, ‘That’s such a great idea.’”

The economics of the opposition doesn’t make much sense, and Cap’n Transit has written an extensive takedown of the system and new plan. (Start poke around his site.) If taxi drivers aren’t keen on going to these underserved areas and don’t cruise around for fares, they won’t lose business, and the yellow medallions, which still provide exclusive street service in Manhattan and pickups at the airport, won’t really be devalued that much. It’s certainly not going to devastate the 50,000 cab drivers as, if anything, it will impact the rich medallion owners instead.

So we wait on Cuomo, and we wait for a key piece of transportation legislation. Taxis are an integral part of a public transit network. Sometimes, the subway or a bus can’t take us where we need to go. Sometimes, we need the trunk space, the speed or the convenience of a car service. Comprehensive taxi service allows for less car dependence in an urban area. Cuomo should sign the bill.

You may also like


Alex C July 18, 2011 - 1:31 am

Did Cuomo end up signing the lockbox bill? Wouldn’t shock me if both went unsigned. He’s made it clear he’s working for lobbyists and the rich early on.

Benjamin Kabak July 18, 2011 - 1:32 am

Still waiting on that one too.

Alex C July 18, 2011 - 12:46 pm

Yeah, neither one’s getting signed. He’s allowed fracking in our state, too. There needs to be a (real) Democratic challenger to Cuomo in the next election.

Bolwerk July 19, 2011 - 1:07 am

“Real” Democrats are whatever the party feels is most likely to win an election against a really zany Republikan. And the party is often wrong.

Alex C July 19, 2011 - 1:55 am

It didn’t take much to beat Paladino. The guy was a) a guy who made millions off government crony favors b) insane. That’s why all the campaign money from the usual corporate suspects went to Cuomo, who is now paying them off.

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 12:42 pm

Andrew Cuomo got a free ride because of that, and because he was Mario’s kid. I despise the Republikans as much as anyone with an IQ over 90 who hasn’t been living in a cave, but I don’t really like the idea of one-party rule or non-competitive elections either.

Alon Levy July 18, 2011 - 8:07 pm

Does New York have a time limit provision for this like the 10-day limit in the US Constitution?

Bolwerk July 19, 2011 - 1:14 am


If any bill shall not be returned by the governor within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him or her, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he or she had signed it, unless the legislature shall, by their adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall not become a law without the approval of the governor. No bill shall become a law after the final adjournment of the legislature, unless approved by the governor within thirty days after such adjournment.

(see Article IV of the state constitution.)

If the legislature is adjourns, he has some leeway.

John-2 July 18, 2011 - 8:48 am

With the ubiquitous nature of GPS devices today, any argument that someone with one of the ‘discount’ medallions is simply going to violate their mandate by picking up in the area south of 96th Street can be easily checked via GPS and computer monitoring. As long as that safeguard is in place the regular medallion owners really don’t have a case to oppose the expamded system.

Al D July 18, 2011 - 9:18 am

I wonder how exactly, 50,000 dirvers would be ‘devastated’ by simply making legal what already exists illegally? I NEVER see yellow cans in areas served by the clown cars that bob and weave and toot their horns every few seconds in search of a fare.

Alon Levy July 18, 2011 - 8:09 pm

Taxi drivers would be unaffected. The main losers would be medallion owners, who think they’re entitled to keeping the privilege they have and that it’s evil for the government to allow more medallions. (I wonder how many of them think the government shouldn’t print money, or allow more housing to be built.)

Andrew D. Smith July 18, 2011 - 11:29 am

The continued existence of the medallion system is the second biggest example (behind rent control) of how the media and democracy in this city fail. The current system screws pretty much everyone except the medallion owners. Riders suffer a shortage of cabs, while driving jobs that provide middle class livings elsewhere provide pittances here. Every story about cabs needs to constantly state the fact that the system was designed by medallion owners to transfer wealth from everyone else to them and, within a few years, the system would become politically untenable and fail.

Bolwerk July 18, 2011 - 11:58 am

Googling around, I don’t see much dependable information on taxi incomes. I don’t think it’s a good idea to dispense with the medallion system entirely. The number of cabs we already have are seriously disruptive to traffic, and adding more doesn’t sound like a great idea.

Bolwerk July 18, 2011 - 12:01 pm

I don’t really like this idea, even though I agree taxi reform needs to come. This should be a local issue, solved locally. That our city council lacks the balls to address it means that we need better council members. Instead of all the near-toothless little democratic institutions we have, like community boards, we should have a more democratic council.

PJ July 18, 2011 - 12:42 pm

This bill will not add 30,000 cabs to the street, it will legalize illegal pick ups by existing cabs via 30,000 permits. The permits require the license holder to have a minimum of 3 years tlc license.

Ed July 18, 2011 - 1:13 pm

I’m trying to figure this out.

As things stand, existing cab drivers don’t make pickups in the outer boroughs. In most of the outer boroughs, you can’t hail a cab.

So they oppose a proposal creating a new class of cabs that can be hailed in the outer boroughs, but not in Manhattan or at the airports which the existing cab drivers service exclusively (in both senses) because….it creates competition for the outer borough market that they currently don’t service anyway?

This is a pretty extreme monopoly. Not only will we not let you enter this business, we won’t enter it ourselves!

Bolwerk July 18, 2011 - 1:56 pm

It’s probably more about flexing their muscles than anything. They’re afraid this will let others get a foot in the door.

TP July 18, 2011 - 2:59 pm

Yellow cabs don’t frequently cruise above 96th Street or to the Outer Boroughs, but when they do they want to be sure they have every advantage available to get a fare. There are parts of the city like Downtown Brooklyn and 125th Street where you could probably count on being able to get a cab at certain times of the day if you wait a couple minutes but be out of luck at other times.

It’s not as if the current system only allows cabs to pick up in Manhattan below 96th Street and the airports. It’s that those are the parts of the city with the perfect combination of population density, wealth, and carless people to be worth cruising as a cabbie. The market has determined this, not legislative fiat. If there was enough of a market for yellow cabs everywhere, they’d be there. But they’d rather cruise around 59th and Lex because they know they won’t have to wait too long for a middle aged woman with shopping bags to wave her arm to be taken 10 blocks. Easy money. But when she does say “take me to Astoria, 25th and Ditmars” they really want to be able to get a fare back into the city. (Unless they illegally refuse to take her, of course.)

Mike July 18, 2011 - 8:58 pm

First of all medallion owners bought a medallion license from the city giving them the exclusive right to street hail privileges in all the 5 boroughs.
I bought my 1st taxi medallion when I was 23 and bought several more in the following  years When I started I drove bedstuy and witnessed the beginning the of gypsy’s taking street hails away from the yellows, . The medallions were affordable to most drivers back then , but the gypsys preferred to take matters into their own hands and illegally pick up street hails.
As I purchased more medallions I began leasing and repairing and dispatching my taxis. My drivers mean a great deal to me I have close relationships with them, If this proposal to legalize gypsy cabs becomes legal, it would effect them with a loss of income, Many of my drivers know the hot spots in Brooklyn and Queens where they go when they have a fare to thee borough from the city, and make good extra money doing this. Sometimes they go there without a fare.  The medallions system was created to help owners and drivers make a living, by limiting the number of taxis, so there would not that many and there wouldn’t be enough fares.
The legalizations of the gypsies is wrong legally and morally, why should I have paid a lot of money for a right that is now being given away for 500 a year. My friends and family do not mind in the least that they can call a car service and within a few minutes have a vehicle waiting for them, even better than a hail. There is no shortage of transportation for the residents of the boroughs only a different but equal form.
Absolutely no to the legalization of an illegal activity, just because it has been going on a long time. Why not just auction of more yellow medallions that can only work the outer boroughs, ,they would not be as expensive as the unrestricted city medallion, maybe 150-200 ,000 , and all a bidder would probably need is 20,000 or less as a down payment. The rest would be able to be finance as the yellow city medallions are.. The complaint that they would cost as much as the city medallion is not true. . Medallions in Chicago go for about 170000
I  bought something and the city wants to give to give it away That’s a real con job!!!!

Benjamin Kabak July 18, 2011 - 8:59 pm

A real con job are your drivers refusing to patrol where I live or yelling at me to get out of their car when I want to go home to Brooklyn. Care to defend that?

pete July 18, 2011 - 10:00 pm

If there are black cabs, there is no excuse of “no market” for yellow cabs.

Alex C July 19, 2011 - 2:05 am

Mike, you and your fellow drivers hold the privilege of being cabbies who can be hailed at once. And you keep this privilege to almost exclusively Manhattan below 96 street. And you are coming on here and telling us with a straight face that despite all of you making the conscious decision to NOT SERVE the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan, you are the victims. You CHOOSE to not serve these other areas. Hence, people who are willing to serve these areas now get to do so. Your argument is pathetic. Your argument is essentially “We don’t want to serve the outer boroughs and nobody else can either because we said so!”

Alon Levy July 19, 2011 - 8:39 pm

Yes, you bought something. So what? Maybe you bought a building; does that mean the city should not allow more housing to be built?

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 3:11 am

Apparently that is how most developers feel.

Alon Levy July 20, 2011 - 10:05 am

Next in line: I’m going to buy gold and then whine and demand that all gold mining be stopped immediately. Why should they make more of something I bought?

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 1:24 pm

Developers and cab companies actually are able to restrict the market more than it otherwise should be, rightfully or wrongfully. Glenn Beck’s followers buying gold are going to be stuck.

I’ve been considering put options… :-\

Yes July 18, 2011 - 9:06 pm

They should be fined heavily or Lic revoked, but take away their or my rights that I paid for !
U buy something expensive from the city and the city gives it away to the next person for pennies, how would u feel

Benjamin Kabak July 18, 2011 - 9:08 pm

They’re not selling the same thing that you bought. It’s pretty easy to see that.

Alex C July 19, 2011 - 2:07 am

I’ll shed a tear for you when you go north of 110th or out of Manhattan. You made this bed for yourselves, so sleep in it. You don’t want to serve the outer boroughs, so someone else will. Tough break.

Mike July 24, 2011 - 6:55 pm

 so  i buy a medallion from the city, giving me exclusive rights to the five boroughs , so I choose to work midtown manhattan , because it’s more lucrative ,I didn’t buy an elusive right to only manhattan, if the city wants me to serve the  outer boroughs, then they should have said that when I bought,  made it a rule, but I bought under these circumstances , and the city should give me further privileges , rather than legalizing an illegal activity, sorry guys , I bought this with a lot of money, so u guys r saying a deal us not a deal!

xavier August 13, 2011 - 1:04 am

bloomberg is going up to bat for his rich friend stein who owns the gps system in the taxi industry.this nothing to do about new yorkers its about rich people getting richer

xavier August 13, 2011 - 1:08 am

bloomberger is going up to bat for hes friend stein who owns the gpssytems has nothing to do about new yorkers its about richer robbing the working class.

A livery cab bill awaits resolution in Albany :: Second Ave. Sagas October 3, 2011 - 12:32 am

[…] Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signatured. Residents want to see the changes, but fleet owners have been looking to kill the bill since mid-July. After all, if a taxi medallion is a better long-term investment than gold, why […]


Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy