Kathleen Horan

Reporter, WNYC News

Kathleen Horan appears in the following:

Judge Brings 5-Borough Taxi Plan to a Screeching Halt

Friday, June 01, 2012


A state Supreme Court judge has brought the city’s five-borough taxi plan to a screeching halt.

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BREAKING: Judge Halts Mayor Bloomberg's Taxi Plan

Friday, June 01, 2012

(photo by d-w via Flickr)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) A state supreme court judge has -- at least for now -- brought the city's 5-boro taxi plan to a screeching halt, based on the theory that allowing the state to approve the plan was "an unconstitutional power grab."  The judge acted on a law suit brought by the yellow cab industry.

The plan, set to get underway this month, would have brought street-hail taxi service to northern Manhattan and the outer boros.  The sale of the additional medallions -- essentially, licenses to operate street-hail vehicles -- was to bring over $1 billion to city coffers.  The city has been offering seminars for fleet owners on how to convert outer-boro livery cars to taxis, and even designated a color for the new street hails --"Apple Green."

Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engron, who was a cabbie himself while he was an undergrad at Columbia, wrote in his decision:  “The court has trouble seeing how the provision of taxi service is a matter that can be wrenched from the hands of city government where it has resided for some 75 years. And be handed over to the state.”  He added that the restraining order “seeks to preserve the status quo until a more complete examination of the plaintiffs claim can be made.”

But the city's reaction was swift and scathing.

Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo, NYC's top lawyer, said, "We are deeply disappointed by today's decision.  We think the court was mistaken in its analysis and are exploring our appellate options.  We intend to so do expeditiously, so that we can proceed with this important new initiative.  The program is geared to providing improved transportation options to segments of the City which are now woefully underserved.  In addition, because we are enjoined from issuing additional medallions, we are prevented from proceeding with a program which will provide significant benefits to the disabled and garner the City approximately $1 billion in critically needed revenues."

The medallion industry has bitterly fought the Bloomberg plan, hiring consultants, organizing opposition rallies and threatening to litigate. The industry complained that allowing cars other than yellow taxis to pick up street hails would devalue the billion dollar medallion industry because for more than 80 years only they enjoyed that right.

One of the plaintiffs, the fleet group the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, is celebrating the Judge’s decision. Spokesman Michael Woloz said “By preventing the Taxi and Limousine Commission from issuing any outer borough street hail permits the court has prevented a trampling of the NY State constitution as well as an economic disaster from taxi owners and drivers who invested their life savings into what they regarded as the American dream—the taxi medallion. "

TLC Commissioner David Yassky called the last minute decision "unfortunate."

“We share the disappointment of the 80% of new Yorkers who live and work outside Manhattan and are waiting for safe, legal and reliable taxi service as well as the thousands of livery drivers who stand ready to provide that service," Yassky said.

The city was poised to start issuing the permits this month. The yellow medallion auction that’s scheduled for July and is estimated to bring in about 1 billion dollars to the city ‘s budget is now also on hold.


Here's the ruling:

Index Number: 102553/12
Oral Argument Date: 5/31/12
- against -
Temporary Restraining Order

et al.,
Index Number 102472/12
Oral Argument Date: 5/31/12
- against -
Temporary Restraining Order
MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG, in his official capacity
as Mayor of the City of New York, et al.,

et. al.
Index Number 102783
Oral Argument Date 5/31/12
- against -
Temporary Restraining Order


Arthur F. Engoron, Justice

Every New Yorker worth his or her salt knows the following basic facts about taxicabs: only “medallioned” cabs are allowed by law to pick up street hail passengers; the City limits the number of medallions (NYC Charter § 2303(b)(4)); and finding a medallioned cab outside of lower- and mid-Manhattan and the airports is usually quite difficult. Indeed, in the so-called “outer-boroughs” (which for the sake of this order includes Manhattan above East 96th Street and West 110th Street) persons needing taxi service must, practically speaking, either telephone a livery cab company, or hail a “gypsy” cab not authorized to make the pickup. For decades, the problem of the lack of legal, reliable taxi service in the outer boroughs has proven intractable.

Recently, the executive branch of defendant City of New York, i.e., the mayor’s office, asked the legislative branch, i.e., the City Council, to increase the number of medallions and to authorize licenses for outer-borough hails. When negotiations broke down, the executive branch asked the State Government for the same. The result is the legislation at issue in these three roughly parallel (and fascinating) cases: Chapter 602 of the Laws of 2011, and Chapter 9 of the Laws of 2012, collectively known as The Street Hail Livery Law. These enactments essentially, and greatly simplified, allow the mayor to issue 2,000 more medallions; allow the Taxi and Limousine Commission, a part of the executive branch, to issue 18,000 outer borough hail licenses, and mandates certain handicap accessibility quotas.

Plaintiffs in the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade case are medallion owners and New York City Council Member Lewis A. Fidler. Plaintiffs in the Taxicab Service Association (“TSA”) case are credit unions and the like that finance the purchase of medallions. Plaintiffs in the Greater New York Taxi Association case are medallion owners and one individual. Defendants in both cases are, simply put, the State of New York, the legislative and executive bodies thereof, the City of New York, the Mayor thereof, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the Commissioner thereof.

As plaintiffs would have it, the trek to Albany was an “end run” by the Mayor. Be that as it may, end runs are legal in football and in politics. The most basic question (among many others) presented here is whether the legislation violates the “Home Rule” provision of the State Constitution. See NY Const. Art. IX § 2(b)(2): the legislature . . . [s]hall have the power to act in relation to the property, affairs or government of any local government only by general law, or by special law [i.e., a law affecting only one locality] only . . . on request of two-thirds of the total membership of its legislative body or on request of its chief executive officer concurred in by a majority of such membership.” As this Court has determined, in the roughly 24 hours since oral argument ended yesterday, and on the business day just prior to the one on which significant aspects of the legislation are to go into effect, that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the law does the State Constitution, and that plaintiffs have demonstrated “irreparable harm” and a “balancing of the equities” in their favor, this Court hereby issues this Temporary Restraining Order, enjoining defendants from implementing any aspect of the law (which contains a so-called “poison pill,” pursuant to which if any aspect of the law is held to be constitutionally infirm, the whole law falls).

Since The Great Depression the legislative branch of New York City has governed, and limited, the issuance of taxi medallions. Even when, twice in the last two decades, the City Council modestly increased the number of medallions, the Council issued a home rule message to this effect. Under the Home Rule provision of the State Constitution, the State Legislature may override the laws of a local municipality only in “matters other than the property, affairs or government of a local government.” The question here is basically whether the number of taxi medallions and the rules of outer-borough hails is primarily a matter of local or state concern. Obviously, anything that affects New York City affects the state in which it is situated, and just as obviously non-New York City residents can (and do, in droves) spend time in New York City. But, generally speaking, these facts cannot satisfy the Home Rule requirements or nothing would be left of the rule but the exceptions. The argument that the City is in the State, and so is a State concern, simply proves too much. This Court has trouble seeing how the provision of taxi service in New York City is a matter that can be wrenched from the hands of City government, where it has resided for some 75 years, and handed over to the State. Both governments are democracies, but only one is solely answerable on election day to the constituents of the five boroughs, those directly affected by the taxi service at issue here.

In a memorandum in opposition to plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief, defendant City quotes the New York State Senate Introducer’s Memorandum in Support of the legislation, in part, as follows:

The bill would allow the City to implement a taxi plan that will more effectively service all five boroughs of New York City and greatly increase the availability of accessible taxicabs and for-hire vehicles. The creation of this plan was prompted by three persistent mobility problems: the lack of accessible vehicles for people with disabilities; nearly non-existent taxi availability in underserved areas of the City (e.g., boroughs outside Manhattan); and insufficient taxi supply in Manhattan’s central business district.

There is nothing in here about Nassau or Westchester Counties, much less Buffalo or Rochester.

As the TSA plaintiffs put it (Memorandum of Law dated 5/17/12, at 7), “the Street Hail Livery Law infringes on Plaintiffs’ constitutionally guaranteed right to have their local government representatives decide issues relating to the local taxi industry, in which they are longtime and central participants.”

In addition to showing a likelihood of success on the merits, this Court finds that plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable injury (see generally Ambrose v. Malcolm, 414 F Supp 485, 493 (S.D.N.Y.1976) (suggesting that deprivations of constitutional rights ipso facto demonstrate irreparable injury, or substitute therefor)), and a balancing of the equities in their favor (briefly keeping the status quo will not harm defendants).

Because of the afore-referenced severe time restrictions, today’s order does not address the numerous other complex objections (alleged unconstitutional takings and inadequate environmental review to name just two of many) plaintiffs have raised to the subject legislation. Today’s order also does not address the wisdom, or lack thereof, of defendants’ good-faith efforts to address age-old problems. Today’s order only seeks to preserve the status quo until a more complete examination can be made of plaintiffs’ claim (among others) that the legislation at issue represents an unconstitutional power grab, and of defendants’ response that the State government has properly regulated an area of state-wide concern.

Thus defendants are hereby temporarily restrained, pending further order of this Court, from implementing any aspect of the subject legislation, conditional on plaintiffs collectively posting a bond of $600,000 (the TSA plaintiffs claim to be a multi-billion dollar business) by Thursday, June 7, 2012. The Court will attempt to resolve with all deliberate speed plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, defendants’ request for summary judgment, and the ultimate merits of this litigation.

Dated: 6/1/12
Arthur F. Engoron, J.C.C.


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Loved Ones Say Bullying Led to Suicide of Boy, 12

Friday, June 01, 2012

Loved ones remembered 12-year-old Joel Morales outside the East Harlem home where he committed suicide this week, lamenting not having stepped in sooner to prevent the bullying some say led to his death.

Comments [7]

TLC Says Taxi Fares Should Increase

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Taxi fares will definitely be going up soon, according to Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.

Comments [1]

On Path to Healing, Military Sexual Assault Victims Meet, Advocate for Change

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Soldier-perpetrated sex crimes are under-reported, but the Defense Department estimates about 19,000 assaults occurred last year. Veterans who are victims of sexual assault recently c...

Comments [10]

TLC to Consider 1st Overall Taxi Fare Hike in 8 Years

Monday, May 21, 2012

A proposed taxi fare hike may go into effect by the end of the summer.


NY Taxi Rates Expected To Rise by Summer's End

Monday, May 21, 2012

(New York, NY -- WNYC) By the end of the summer, it may cost more to take a taxi in New York.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says it’s considering a fare hike on cabs later this month.  Its been 8 years since the last overall fare hike. The TLC will hold a public hearing on the rate hikes on May 31.

The Taxi Workers Alliance submitted a proposal for a hike a year ago. The group is asking for an increase between 20-25 percent.

Official sources say that number would likely be closer to 16-20 percent but that drivers have made a good case for an increase.

That would raise the average fare to $14 from about $12.

Taxi Workers Alliance’s Bhairavi Desai says  “Its about time, the last overall raise was in 2004—and we’ve seen drivers really struggling out there to make ends meet."

TLC Commissioner David Yassky says “it’s reasonable for taxi drivers and fleet owners to put this one the table. We will consider their petitions over the next couple of months.”

The TLC will also look at maximum lease rates, know as "lease caps," which have been requested by fleet owners.

If a fare increase is approved by the summer-- it will coincide with the sale of the new outer borough livery permits and 2000 yellow medallions.

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Veterans Learn Different Kind of Warrior Pose

Sunday, May 20, 2012


For many New Yorkers, yoga is more than exercise — it's a tool to relieve stress. That's what one yoga instructor had in mind when she started a class for military veterans.

Comments [1]

Sept. 11 Victims' Families to Watch as Tribunal Hears Case

Friday, May 04, 2012


Family members of those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks will get the opportunity to watch the arraignment of five men accused of training and funding the hijackers — including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed — at the Fort Hamilton army base in Brooklyn.

Comments [3]

New York City Comptroller Says He's Blocking Taxi of Tomorrow

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Nissan NV200 -- New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow" - on display at the 2012 New York Auto Show (photo by Kate Hinds

Comptroller John Liu further complicated the New York City’s "Taxi of Tomorrow" project  Wednesday by saying he wouldn’t approve the city’s contract with Nissan because the vehicle selected isn’t wheelchair accessible.

Surrounded by other elected officals and advocates for the disabled, Liu said he believed the contract ‘as is’ violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.

But Liu, who is under an ethical cloud for campaign finance violations,  may not be able to reject the contract outright.  Liu's campaign treasurer and a fundraiser have been indicted for using "straw donors" to circumvent city camapaign finance rules.

Kate O’Brien, spokeswoman with the City Law Department, said, “the law limits the issues upon which the Comptroller may refuse to register a contract. None of the matters raised, including ADA compliance, would constitute lawful grounds for refusing to do so.”

The city chose Nissan to be the single provider of yellow taxis for the next decade beginning in 2013. The new cabs will be rolled out as older cabs are retired.

The Nissan NV 200 has transparent roofs, USB chargers and extra legroom.  However, even though it’s a mini-van, it isn't accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Liu said “requiring cabs to have independent climate controls is nice but when you fail to make them accessible to a growing number of New Yorkers, it’s not just a slap in the face, its illegal.”

Taxi and Limousine Commssion spokesperson Allan Fromberg called Liu’s objection to the contact “mysterious and ill-informed.” He said, “Nissan is providing a wheelchair accessible version of the Taxi of Tomorrow, the city will create an additional 2,000 wheelchair accessible medallion licenses and they’re on the cusp of launching a demand responsive wheelchair accessible taxi dispatch system.”

Disabled groups sued the city over the Taxi of Tomorrow, and in 2011, a federal court ruled that the city, through the Taxi and Limousine Commission, violated ADA because it failed to provide passengers in wheelchairs meaningful access to taxis.  But an appeals court has allowed the city to put new taxis on the street without complying with the lower’s court’s order.

Currently, only 2 percent of the city’s taxi fleet is wheelchair accessible.

Attorney James Weissman with United Spinal Association, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit against the Taxi of Tomorrow, rejected the notion that a dispatch system will provide “meaningful access” to cabs for the estimated 60,000 New Yorkers in wheelchairs.  He noted that a separate system just for people with disabilities is a classic violation of civil rights.

“If it was any other protected class would we even question whether or not this was a shameful practice?” he asked. “What if we were running a separate system –substitute any other protected class…women have to take a separate system, blacks have to take a separate system – they can’t get in the same cabs…it doesn’t pass the smell test.”

By taking on the taxi issue, the embattled comptroller isn’t only taking on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg  He’s going head-to-head with TLC Commissioner David Yassky—his rival in the 2009 runoff for the office of Comptroller—an office many political insiders believe Yassky would make a run for again.

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Liu Vows to Block 'Taxi of Tomorrow'

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Comptroller John Liu further complicated the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow project on Wednesday by saying he wouldn’t approve the city’s contract with Nissan because the vehicle selected isn’t wheelchair accessible.

Comments [1]

Yellow Cabs Get Poetic

Thursday, April 26, 2012

TLC Commissioner David Yassky

Starting Thursday, yellow taxi passengers will find something new in the back of their cabs. It's not a stranger's cell phone. It's a poem.

Poems like “Graduation,” by Dorothea Tanning and “Noche de Lluvia, San Salvador,” by Aracelis Girmay will appear at various times in the city’s 13, 237 cabs on the loop of Taxi TV that is refreshed every two hours.

The 15-second, silent, animated poems are an expansion of the MTA’s popular Poetry in Motion program that posts verses next to dermatology and mattress ads on the city’s subways.

At the announcement of the literary partnership between subways and cabs in Times Square on Thursday, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said he thinks when New Yorkers see the new content, they will be less likely to switch off the unpopular TV screens in the back of taxis.

"When there's something worth watching people keep the screens on and I think these poems are absolutely worth reading and absorbing," he said.

Yassky read a poem that he wrote himself for the occasion:

…And topping all, the Sunday’s cherry, making us gleeful and so merry is your partnership with the TLC, beautifying the Taxi TV, for I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a taxi. When raindrops fall like an autumn leaf, an empty cab is sweet relief.

Thursday is also Poem in Your Pocket Day, on which poetry fans are encouraged to choose a poem and carry it with them before sharing it with a co-worker, friend or a family member.

Below, check out some of Yassky's verses.

The poem Times Square, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky wrote in honor of the literary partnership between subways and cabs.

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Yellow Cabs Receive Poetic Infusion

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Starting Thursday, yellow taxi passengers will find something new in the back of their cabs. It's not a stranger's cell phone. It's a poem.


Children's Safety Concerns Revived in Wake of Patz Search

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The recent search for the missing school boy Etan Patz, who disappeared 33 years ago after walking alone to the bus stop, has reignited an age old debate: at what age should parents give their kids more freedom?

Comments [9]

East Village’s Lakeside Lounge to Shutter After 16 Years

Monday, April 23, 2012

An East Village bar known for its live music, vintage jukebox and $3 dollar beers is closing for good next week. The Lakeside Lounge on Avenue B, will be added to the growing list of ...

Comments [5]

BREAKING: NYC Taxi Commission Approves Plan for Outer Borough Street Hails

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission voted 7-2 to approve a new plan for outer-borough livery drivers — the last major hurdle before the city can start issuing new licenses so livery drivers can pick up street hails outside of Manhattan.

It was a raucous public hearing ahead of the TLC's vote.   Two yellow cab drivers were ejected for shouting.  One owner called it "the biggest taking of property ever by New York City."

The topic of street hails is a hot-button issue for some in the yellow cab industry, which  filed a suit to block the proposed plan on Wednesday.

The plan would allow 18,000 livery drivers who purchase the new street hail permits to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and parts of upper Manhattan.

The first 6,000 street hail licenses are scheduled to be sold in June.

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TLC Approves Draft Plan for Five-Borough Street Hails

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has voted 7 to 2 to approve the rules governing outer borough livery street hails, 15 months after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his intention to expand taxi service throughout the city. It's the last hurdle before the city starts selling some 6,000 new medallions in June.

Comments [1]

Taxi Group Goes to Court to Block Livery Street Hail Plan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, an organization that represents 33 taxi fleets, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to block the Bloomberg administration’s plan to legalize street hail service for cars other than yellow cabs. The suit comes right before Thursday’s scheduled Taxi and Limousine Commission’s vote on the draft rules that will govern the livery street hail service.


As NY Taxi Commission Prepares for Historic Vote, Dissent Looms

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Livery Cab (photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to vote tomorrow on a set of rules to pave the way for a historic change in the way New Yorkers can hail cabs.   Beginning this summer, if the rules pass, New Yorkers will be able to hail cabs in all five boroughs, not just Manhattan.

But there's dissent among some of the commissioners about whether the 200 pages of regulations that will govern the service is being rushed to a vote.

Some on the nine-member board of the TLC say they’d like more time to consider the repercussions and make necessary tweaks to the plan.

And TLC Commissioner David Yassky is frantically trying to settle the biggest differences before the vote (for a peek at his internal memo, click here).

Queens Commissioner Norah Marino thinks there should be more time to digest the biggest change in the industry in more than 70 years.

“We just got the amended rules a couple of days ago. It’s not enough time to make a responsible decision,” Marino said. She’d like to have at least a few more months to digest the proposal.  I know the city wants to sell these permits but that’s not a valid reason to rush this vote. "This is changing the landscape of an industry — it’s not a minor vote.”

The street hail livery plan will allow owners and drivers of for-hire vehicles to pick up passengers in Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Queens (excluding the airports), and Manhattan north of West 110th and East 96th streets.

Staten Island Commissioner Elias Arout would also like to delay a vote. He said he has serious concerns about whether it’s good for Staten Island in the first place, but would like to have more time to consider the possible effects on his borough’s livery industry. “We’re trying to ask Chairman Yassky to extend the vote for a few months but he wants this done Thursday,” he explained.

TLC Spokesman Allan Fromberg said they have every expectation of moving forward with a vote this week as planned.

The plan to deliver legal street hail livery service beyond Manhattan where most yellow cabs operate has been a central focus of Bloomberg administration over the past year. The eagerness to complete the process is also budgetary, since the billion dollars in expected revenue from the scheduled yellow medallion auction this summer is tied to the sale of the first livery street hail licenses.

Commissioner Frank Carone of Brooklyn said he’s prepared to cast his vote in support because TLC has agreed to make some last minute rule changes. In the most recent TLC memo to commissioners, Commissioner Yasky addresses some of the last minute changes, including increasing penalties for accepting street hails outside the upper Manhattan zone, where the street hail liveries are banned from picking up passengers. Carone also thinks moving forward is the best for all concerned. “The industry needs closure,” he said.

While upper Manhattan Councilman and former livery driver Ydanis Rodriguez  supports the overall plan, he hopes the TLC exercises some caution as they move to implement it. “I believe it’s a good initiative but now is the time to look at the details so that the users, the livery divers, and base owners have a clear understanding. We should take the time that is needed to make sure we have a good plan,” he said.

The public hearing and TLC vote on the livery hail draft rules will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall at 9 a.m. on the April 19.

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Livery Street-Hail Vote Is Being Rushed, Some Say

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The Taxi and Limousine Commission is poised to vote on draft rules for the city's street hail livery plan on Thursday. It's one of the final steps necessary before selling the first livery license permits in June. But there's dissent among some of the commissioners about whether the 200 pages of regulations that will govern the service is being rushed to a vote.