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Livery Drivers In Washington Heights Frustrated By Ruling

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While the yellow cab industry is cheering a judge's ruling that struck down the Taxi and Limousine Commission's "Five Borough Taxi Plan," those who drive livery cars and their customers are crying foul. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.

On the streets of Washington Heights, New York's seemingly ever-present iconic yellow cabs are a rare sight. In fact, on over the span of several hours on Friday night, NY1 didn't spot a single one.

"A yellow cab is seldom seen here," said one resident.

"They have the option to come here. They just don't want to because of the neighborhood," said another. "That's it."

Washington Heights is livery cab territory. Drivers with Riverside Radio Dispatcher said they've inherited the streets of upper Manhattan and the outer reaches of New York by default. That's why they should reap the benefits of being allowed to pick up fares who hail them on the street, in addition to passengers who dial for a ride. They don't buy that yellow cab drivers lose money if livery cab drivers pick up passengers on the street.

"They cannot take all the money in the city," said livery cab driver Joaquin Gonzalez. "It's places they don't go. It's money they cannot make. So that's the money we want to make and we want to be legal to do it."

In fact, everyone NY1 spoke to said putting the brakes on Mayor Bloomerg's proposal won't halt a practice that has become commonplace, legal or not: hailing cars on the street.

"I'll just hail a cab cause they're a lot around here and you just stick your hand out," said one resident. "I know it's not legal but sometimes you have to get a cab some way, somehow."

"We're being harassed and getting summonses and tickets and we're really needed," said Miguel Gonzalez of Riverside Radio Dispatcher. "We've been here in this establishment 30 years serving our community, yet they don't want to approve a law we all need."

Drivers and residents in livery cab land said they hope one day the roadblocks will be removed and people can enjoy the same convenience as taking a yellow cab.

"I think the community and the city, they need us to do the job like that," Joaquin Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, in the future, something is going to happen."

Livery cab drivers said they don't think picking up passengers on the street poses any safety additional safety concerns. If they sense danger, they simply won't pick someone up. Plus, most cabs now have surveillance cameras.

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