After keeping taxi companies waiting for a year, the city is moving ahead to award almost three dozen new tax medallions.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres said the city will award the 33 un-owned taxicab medallions through advertisement and lottery in the next 45 days. 60-percent of the medallions will be available to companies with 10 or fewer cabs, said officials last Wednesday. 40-percent will be available to all companies regardless of size.
Law director Domenick Stampone said companies will be able to receive the max of 10 medallions. The meeting was attended by half-dozen taxicab company owners. Many welcomed the news the city will be giving out the licenses in the next two months.
“We feel better,” said Yamilka Irzarry, owner of Mr. Green Taxi, who translated for many of the owners. “We’re comfortable with the clarity we got.” She said she is not applying for new medallions.
The city was expected to award licenses a year ago. Some companies complained the city promised licenses, but never delivered them. Torres said it was not done using incorrect procedure.
Andy Guzman, owner of 973 Car, received a letter stating he would get 7 licenses. He complained about the delays in awarding the licenses last year to the council. He said the delays was close to forcing him out of business.
“It’s better than before. It’s fair,” said Guzman. He said the wait time is “reasonable.” There have been behind the scene discussions between the administration and the cab company owners. Some of those conversations led some of the owners to believe the mayor was looking to reshape the city’s taxi industry.
Some thought the mayor intended to auction off medallions to individuals rather than companies. “That’s a misunderstanding of the word,” said taxi inspector Pedro Liranzo. Some owners complained about illegal operators who pick up customers and take business away from taxi companies.
Liranzo said he has three inspectors addressing the issue. He said in 2016, his office issued more than 200 tickets to illegal operators. “They don’t stop,” said Liranzo.
At-large councilman Alex Mendez told the mayor he wants to see a study to determine the demand for taxis in the city. He said this will help the city to figure out whether the 250 taxicabs are enough to service the city.
Torres said 250 cabs for a population of 150,000 is sufficient. “I don’t see us expanding that number,” he said.
The mayor said Uber is taking business away from city taxi companies. “Uber is really pilfering off a considerable amount of ridership,” alleged Torres.
The city charges $350 per year per license. The 33 licenses will bring in $11,550 to city coffers per year, according to city records.