Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
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.
The plan is currently on a fast tract to being implemented. It 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. For more than 70 years, yellow cabs and more specifically, the coveted and pricey yellow medallion, were the only ones allowed to pick-up street hails. Yellow taxi fleet and medallion owners argue that sharing the right to pick up spontaneous passengers would devalue their medallions, which have recently sold at auction for around a million dollars.
Michael Woloz, spokesman for the MTBOT, said that the taxi industry is being jeopardized and the law needs to be scrapped. “We’re hoping our arguments will persuade TLC commissioners voting on the plan to take pause and to vote no on these rules. We believe the law is unconstitutional so we don’t believe that any rules that would be a result of that invalid law should move forward.”
The group is asking the court for an injunction against the city to prevent it from implementing the plan, in part because the law was passed without a ’Home Rule” message from the New York City Council. Instead, according to the complaint, the Bloomberg administration sought to “circumvent the local legislative process” and the City Council by convincing the State Legislature to pass the law instead.
Ave Maria Brennan, senior counsel with the NYC Law Department, said, “A great deal of thought and consideration went into the adoption of this new transportation initiative. We are confident that it complies with all legal requirements, and that it will be rejected by the courts.”
She added that “the suit will not deter the (TLC) Commission from performing its duty and voting on the carefully crafted regulations pending before it.”
The TLC’s public hearing and vote on the rules is scheduled for 9a.m. on Thursday at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
The first 6,000 street hail licenses are scheduled to be sold in June.