A new green fleet makes its way uptown
Story by Sandra E. García and Isaacc García
Photos by Isaacc García
Green is the new yellow, if you’re only accustomed to hailing cabs of a lemon-colored hue.
Or perhaps the new black, should your taxi transport typically be the black livery Lincoln Town cars that are prevalent uptown and in the Bronx.
In either case, get ready for a change.
The city unveiled the color of the new taxicab for the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan this past Sun., Apr. 29th at a morning press conference at City Hall Plaza that featured a Prius model painted in what Mayor Michael Bloomberg called, “green apple.”
The mayor, who attended the press conference together with Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky, New York State Assemblymembers Guillermo Linares, of northern Manhattan, and Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, and members of the livery cab industry, spoke to the color as one that was “attractive and distinctive.”
Commissioner Yassky said, “[The color] is very fitting for the new Boro Taxis,” referring to the new name of the taxicabs that will legally be permitted to accept street hails from passengers throughout previously prohibited swaths of northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs.
“It’s pleasing to the eye, easy to see from a distance and blends well with the urban landscape,” continued Commissioner Yassky. “Just as the yellow taxi and the black car were once new services that became a trusted part of their users’ lives, the Boro Taxi, too, will take its long-awaited place as a part of the city’s comprehensive transportation network.”
The debate over expanding legal cab service to all areas of the city was a hotly contested issue all year in Albany and in the city, one that sought to pit the interests of an entrenched medallion industry versus livery cab drivers, bases and business owners in the outer boroughs whose 40 years of service and livelihoods were wed also to the fortunes of others: insurance brokers, restaurant workers, and radio dispatchers.
“Without a doubt, there are more than 100,000 hard-working people and families who rely on this industry,” said Assemblymember Guillermo Linares, who sponsored the bill in the legislative chamber earlier in the year.
As he spoke, Assemblymember Linares held aloft a green apple in triumph.
“There is a complete line of industries in our community that benefit from this,” he noted. “This will fortify our community, after struggling for so long to have its work legitimized.
And so, four months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the legislation that allowed the city to sell new taxi licenses that could respond to the street hails, and just over a week after the TLC adopted the rules that would regulate the new fleet of “Boro Taxis,” what remained up for debate was what to make of the new color.
“We went out to try to find something that would be recognizable, that would be distinguishable from the yellow cabs, and that would be pleasing to the eye and fit in with the city,” said Mayor Bloomberg. The commission only very recently decided upon this shade of green, and had done so in consultation Smart Design, a design firm, Smart Design, as well as with NYC & Company.
Locally, local residents who would soon be hailing the new cars responded with anticipation.
“I like the new color of the taxis!” exclaimed Inwood resident Amilka Vega, who relies on liveries almost 2-3 times a day.
“Maybe it’s because they are green, my favorite color, but they are a refreshing sight to see,” she added, “I love the bright modern color and the style of the cars themselves.”
Bronx resident Gene Tejada too was excited about seeing the new cars out and about. “We rarely see any yellow cabs in Longwood,” said Tejada. “If they could get these green cabs to come here and it’s a metered ride that’d be great.”
For longtime livery cab advocate Cira Angeles, who serves as the spokesperson for the Livery Cab Owners’ Association, the color represented something else: affirmation.
“I think that hope has arrived,” said Angeles, owner and president of LA Riverside in Washington Heights. “A spectacular color has been chosen to bring out our men and women who have worked hard for over 40 years, out of the shadows. I think that they finally have justice because they have been recognized for the work that they have brought to our communities.”
The new cars will also have credit card machines, which many livery cabs lack, roof lights to be able to show their availability to potential customers, unique tags to be able to distinguish the licensed cars, and taximeters for a metered ride.
The fare and meter hardware will be the same as the machines yellow cabs currently carry.
Boro Taxis will also be outfitted with GPS Vehicle location devices to aid in the return of lost property and to ensure that cab drivers are picking up customers outside of Manhattan’s Central Business District.
“Today is a historic day,” said Fernando Garcia, President of the New York Association of Independent Taxi Drivers. “After so much struggle and effort, we finally have a legal car, with a new color and all its licensing information on it. The community will get a chance to know the car that they can hail legally.”
For others, the stand-out color was reason enough to get excited.
“The new color is cool,” said Bronx passenger Tejada. “It’s different, like the other boroughs are, compared to downtown Manhattan.”
THE CITY’S PLAN FOR BORO TAXIS
- The city will sell 18,000 outer-borough livery hail licenses which will permit drivers to pick up street hails in northern Manhattan and the four other boroughs.
- The first 6,000 licenses will be sold for $1,500 each in June, with each license being valid for three years.
- Eligible drivers will be those affiliated with a base, which requires a base license that costs $3,000.
- Of that first set, 20 percent of the permits will be held for wheelchair accessible vehicles.
- The City of New York will offer $15,000 in subsidies to facilitate paying for the cost difference as compared to non-accessible vehicles.
- Those cabs that continue to pick up passengers without the livery hail licenses will be subject to fines and penalties.