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Appeals Court Upholds City's Plan To Expand Taxi, Livery Cab Service

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A federal appeals court gave the city on Thursday a green light to roll ahead with its taxi reform plan, despite objections from advocates for the disabled.

The advocates were upset 2,000 new taxi medallions are about to be given out to a fleet that is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they wanted the Taxi and Limousine Commission to produce a detailed plan on how to remedy the problem.

On Wednesday, the federal appeals court froze the order after the TLC argued it would have prevented the city from implementing a key part of the reform plan.

The city maintains a large part of that fleet would have been wheelchair-accessible.

Meanwhile, the five-borough taxi plan supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo will also let livery cabs pick up passengers hailing a cab in Brooklyn, Queens except for at the airports, the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan north of West 110th Street and East 96th Street.

Over the next three years, 18,000 of the special "hail" licenses would be issued and 20 percent of the permits will be for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

"We understand that this is a significant change in the industry. My belief and my hope is that the bulk of the industry see it as change for the good," said TLC Commissioner David Yassky.

Residents in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where there are few yellow cabs to be found, told NY1 they would welcome being able to hail a livery cab instead.

"I can just wave my hand in the middle of the street if I need to go somewhere really quick," said a local.

However, yellow taxi fleet owners oppose the move, saying at the TLC's Thursday public hearing in Downtown Manhattan that it would cost them riders and dollars.

"To forge ahead without carefully thinking this business through, and thinking where the balloon is going to bulge, is not going to serve New York City's neediest in terms of taxi and transportation needs," said Richard Emery of Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade.

So-called livery bases that act as clearing houses for independent drivers who pay them a fee are basically in favor, but worry the plan could hold them responsible for paying driver summonses and permit renewal fees.

"I think we have come so far in 40 years and this is only one more step towards being completely legal in all aspects throughout the five boroughs," said Cira Angeles of the Livery Base Owners Coalition.

Artie Grover of the Fleet Livery Owners Association, who owns a Staten Island service that dispatches cars requested by phone, said he opposes any street pick-ups in his borough.

"That would put me out of business within a year. I lose half my business right off the bat," said Grover.

The TLC will hold a public information session on the proposal from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, April 2, at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, followed by a final public hearing and a vote on April 19 at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

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