On a rainy Wednesday in Brooklyn, one might have expected some enthusiasm for a new law that next year will allow livery cabs to be hailed on the street in northern Manhattan and the four other boroughs. Instead, some who work with livery cabs were skeptical about the effect the law might have, while those in the yellow cab business worried about its potential impact.
John D’Adamo owns Malones Car Service in Greenpoint; 20 drivers pay him a fee to use his company’s dispatch services. Customers call the office to request a ride, and a dispatcher sends drivers to fetch them. That, Mr. D’Adamo said, is how it works in Brooklyn.
“You call; you make a reservation; you know you’re going to get a car,” he said. “You can have a clear head. These guys who do street hails, they’re not going to make the money.”
He said airport rides accounted for a large share of business, and, by 1 p.m., some 30 customers had already requested rides to La Guardia ($22), Kennedy International ($35) or Newark Liberty International ($50, plus the toll). Because the call-in service works well, he said, he forbids his drivers from accepting street hails.
But he added: “Go wait on Manhattan Avenue, and see how long it takes you to hail a car from another service. It won’t take long.”
In fact, it took a reporter, standing in a light drizzle, about 15 minutes to flag down a livery cab on Manhattan Avenue.
The first livery driver to stop was Michal Wolczynski, who owns his own gray Lincoln Town Car but pays a dispatching fee to Prime Time Transportation Inc., based in Long Island City, Queens.
Mr. Wolczynski said he did not normally pick up street hails, which has been illegal for livery drivers but will be legal under the new law for drivers who obtain a special permit. He said, however, that he would make an exception to speak with a reporter.
Mr. Wolczynski, an immigrant from Poland, bought his first Town Car two decades ago: a used 1985 model for which he paid $5,000. He estimated that in the 20 years he had worked as a livery cab driver, often seven days a week, he had logged nearly one million miles in the city.
Despite his long record, and the new law that could potentially enable him to expand his business, he said that Wednesday coincidentally was his final day as a livery cab driver. In 2008, he split the cost of a yellow cab medallion with a partner; each man paid $217,500. He said he planned to drive the yellow cab full time starting Thursday, which he said would be more lucrative than driving a livery cab.
He said he did not think the law would have a significant impact, as most of the passengers who hail cabs do so in Lower Manhattan, where it will remain illegal for a livery cab to pick up someone hailing from the street.
“Yellow taxi business is much better,” Mr. Wolczynski said. “Yellow taxi is very busy in Manhattan all the time. People in livery cabs cannot pick up in Manhattan.” But some in Brooklyn’s yellow cab business were worried that the new law, signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday, would let livery cabs eat into their earnings.
“Listen, every cab driver thinks it’s bad for the yellow taxi,” said Chris Harisopoulos, a dispatcher at McGuinness Management, which operates a fleet of 350 yellow cabs from Greenpoint.
The company manager, Sebastian Olson, noted that the new law ended yellow cabs’ exclusive right to pick up people on the street and said that he feared this was just the beginning of an encroachment by livery cabs.
“That’s their foot in the door,” he said. “And once their foot’s in the door, it’s just a matter of time before they’re going to be given more permits or get to pick up passengers in the city during certain hours.”
Not far from the McGuinness Management office, Alex Brody, a nanny and college student, was walking from Manhattan Avenue to her apartment near McGuinness Boulevard. She tends to rely on public transportation, she said, but occasionally calls Malones, when she needs a lift to the airport or home after a late night.
“There’s so many car services in the neighborhood, and they’re easier and often cheaper,” Ms. Brody said. She added that she did not expect to use the livery cabs available for hailing much more than she used the call-in service.
Even on a wet December day like this?
“It’s not a problem,” she said. “I have an umbrella.”