The sedans in black, silver, and navy waited along the curb for a signal: a look, a slight nod, an impatient rap on the window.
With each one, a passenger climbed inside one of the cars waiting below an elevated subway station in the Bronx, and the car drove away. Though these street pickups by livery cabs are illegal and can carry hefty fines for the drivers, they happen so often and in so many corners of the city that they are a familiar street ritual.
But it is a tradition that may soon be upended.
In a major reshaping of New York City’s for-hire transportation industry, the city this summer is rolling out a new fleet of green taxis to expand legal street-hail service beyond Manhattan.
Elected officials and many livery company owners and drivers say it will not only ensure service for poor and minority neighborhoods where yellow taxis are rarely seen, but will also benefit livery drivers who, by converting to green taxis, need no longer look in the rearview mirror every time they make a street pickup.
But in some lines of livery cars, the very drivers the expansion aims to help expressed anger and worry. The drivers said that they eked out a meager living as it was, in neighborhoods with spotty demand and few big tippers, and that converting to a green taxi would cost them thousands of dollars they do not have and subject them to more rules.
“I don’t want it,” Pablo Camilo, 57 and a father of three, said as he waited by his gray Toyota Camry in the Bronx. “I want it to be like it is. I can’t spend money I have to spend on my family.”
To make his point, Mr. Camilo said he earned about $120 a day but estimated it would cost as much as $5,000 to obtain a green-taxi permit and retrofit his car, including painting it apple-green and installing roof lights, a meter and credit card reader.
In the past month, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission issued 279 green-taxi permits to livery drivers or owners. Allan J. Fromberg, a spokesman for the commission, also said that it heard from thousands of other prospective applicants through its Web site and the city’s 311 line. In all, the city plans to issue up to 6,000 green-taxi permits in the first year, and up to 12,000 more in the next two years. Each regular permit, which is valid for three years, costs $1,500 for the first year and more in subsequent years.
The city’s expansion of street-hail service was upheld recently by a state appellate court over protests from the yellow-taxi industry and other critics, including Randy M. Mastro, a lawyer and former deputy mayor who warned that it would have a “profoundly destabilizing effect” on the city’s for-hire industry. Currently, there are 13,237 yellow cabs and more than 24,800 registered livery cabs, according to city records.
Mr. Mastro said there was not enough demand in northern Manhattan and in other boroughs to support the green taxis, and that they would inevitably end up heading into yellow-cab territory to vie for passengers. “Far from solving problems, it will create a host of new ones,” he said.
The expansion has also been criticized by some livery companies who say their drivers may be tempted to cancel prearranged pickups.
Avik Kabessa, chief executive officer of Carmel, said that he was able to guarantee service to his customers by temporarily cutting off calls to drivers who missed pickups. “With this new law, I’ve lost this muscle,” he said. “The drivers are going to say, ‘No problem, I’m just going to do a street hail.’ ”
Mr. Kabessa, a board member of the Livery Roundtable, which represents 240 companies citywide that are affiliated with 14,000 vehicles, said his group had urged the city to maintain the same clear boundaries between taxi and livery service as in most of Manhattan.
It had also asked for the city to issue medallions for the green taxis instead of permits so that drivers would have a direct stake in complying with rules while also being able to earn equity on their investment.
The group, noting that it is unknown how much demand there is for street-hail service outside Manhattan, had also called on the city to initially restrict the number of those medallions to 6,000 while it assessed the market.
Currently, medallions for yellow taxis carry a hefty price tag: in June the average sales price was over $1 million.
Other livery companies have rejected the criticisms that the expansion will create problems, arguing that green taxis will only improve the image of an industry often derided as gypsy-cabs-for-hire.
Cira Angeles, a spokeswoman for Livery Base Owners, a coalition of 125 livery companies with 11,000 affiliated vehicles, said that her group had stepped up efforts to educate livery drivers and companies about the benefits of the green taxis. They held an informational fair in the Bronx on July 1 that drew over 400 people, and planned to organize similar events across the city over the summer.
“At the end of the day, if you have a driver who is not looking over their shoulder, they will work better and be at ease, and make more money because now they are doing it in the legal way,” she said. Livery cabdrivers who pick up street hails can face fines from the commission or the Police Department that start at $500 for the first violation.
Around the Bronx, many livery drivers said they mostly ferried passengers to local appointments and shopping malls, and occasionally to the Empire City Casino in Yonkers. Some of them said that they charged a minimum per trip — for instance, $7 — regardless of how short it was, and that using a meter as a green taxi could result in lower fares.
Still, Juan Molina, 25, said he was willing to convert if he could save up enough money. “Right now if I get in my red car, people don’t know I’m a livery,” he said. “They don’t use us, but with a green car maybe they’ll use us more.”
But Aneudi Almonte, a radio service dispatcher, said that many of his drivers remained skeptical. He said the city should have legalized street-hail pickups by livery cabs rather than created what he saw as a second-class tier of taxis.
“I don’t like it at all,” he said. “Basically, you’re trying to say yellow cabs are for people with money and green cabs are for minorities. You’re creating two brackets, and that’s not right.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 11, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: With Street-Hail Service Set to Expand, Some Drivers Are Skeptical.
By WINNIE HU