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NYC Legal Battle Escalates over Adding Green "Outer-Boro" Cabs (UPDATED)

Friday, August 17, 2012 - 06:02 PM

(Arun Venogopal and Brigid Bergin -- WNYC )

(UPDATED 8/20 7:45am) The city plans to appeal a state Supreme Court judge ruling that blocks New York City's plan to improve taxi service in the outer boroughs by adding a second category of taxis in addition to the city's iconic yellow cabs.

The taxi plan, which would increase street hails to the outer boroughs by adding a second category of taxi authorized to pick up passengers who flag them down on the street. In NYC, only licensed  yellow cabs are authorized to do that now.  The plan was estimated to bring in an additional $1 billion in revenue from the sale of new medallions. But without it the city faces a $635 budget million shortfall – and it’s only the second month of fiscal year 2013.

In his ruling issued Friday, the judge said the city had illegally bypassed the City Council, and that its decision to make new medallions available only to livery cab owners was unlawful.

The five-borough taxi plan would have brought additional street hail service to areas less frequented by yellow cabs: northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs. The new cabs would have been green.

A previous suit was filed by the yellow cab industry in June protesting the plan. Owners had protested, saying it would've diluted the value of their medallions.

The city will file an immediate appeal, according to Michael Cardozo, corporation counsel for the New York City Law Department.

“We are confident that the appellate court will uphold the state law authorizing two important transportation initiatives: providing safe and reliable hail service by liveries in areas of the city rarely served by yellow taxicabs, and providing 2,000 more wheelchair-accessible yellow taxicabs for disabled passengers,” said Cardozo in a statement.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said on Sunday that she shares the disappointment over the court’s decision because it affects taxi accessibility throughout the city. She also said she was concerned about the financial implications.

“This is an important case because it deals with whether or not there will be taxi service that’s really accessible to people geographically throughout all of the city,” said Quinn.

“We will have to find ways to make up those hundreds of millions of dollars, which short of there being an unexpected increase in tax revenues, would mean we’d have to find places in the budget where we would have to cut back,” Quinn said.

(For more on the fiscal impact to NYC, see full article at WNYC.)

Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky tweeted Friday: "ruling delays service for millions -- disappointing!" and conveyed the city would immediately appeal the decision.

In its statement, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a group representing yellow cab owners, applauded the ruling and said "Chairman David Yassky and the Administration back-doored a flawed plan in Albany and got caught. It’s that simple."

Some stakeholders expressed concern going forward.

Bhairavi Desai, who heads the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers, worried that yellow cab owners would undo provisions that had finally brought her organization on board.

"Now that they would be going back to the city council, where they've had undue influence for decades, our concern is another plan would be hatched, where drivers would get caught in the crossfire."

The decision:

Engoron Decision

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Comments [4]

Anne Marie Gabalis

I wish this Taxicab expansion service would arrive to Washington Heights. We are in Manhattan, BTW. But I feel like I live in Upstate NY, 40 minutes away from Midtown via the A train. I love where I live. The A train is a great commute for the workday. After 8 pm I use Car Service only. Negotiations, based on the weather, holiday, availability are the rule of the road here. Everything depends on demand and supply. We who live up here have learned to Deal with our Drivers. In a way it's copacetic but more options would be appreciated.... I hope the appeal is passed... Jobs will benefit too. Competition will improve service....

Aug. 20 2012 04:48 PM
Janet Stites

Thank you for covering this issue. One point I have not seen addressed in any of the press is that those of us who live in Upper Manhattan (Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood) can't even get a cab. They are scare and do not always stop of fares when up here (which is illegal) b/c they are trying to get back downtown. I'm sure it is the same for the outer boroughs. If we want to catch a ride, we have to avail ourselves of the gypsy cabs, which often charge more that yellow cabs and there is not way to monitor. It is also dangerous. I worry about young women who may jump into the first gypsy cab which stops and end up in a precarious situation. If you could get this issue into the dialogue, it would be great. I wonder where the judge live??? Probably not in Astoria! Best, Janet Stites

Aug. 19 2012 01:22 PM
Gene Dubois

Let calm heads prevail, please.

No legislation is needed to increase boroughs and uptown cab service. That can be accomplished just by judicious lack of enforcement of the current law against non-yellow street hails.

The purpose of the city here is primarily to sell licenses and charge fees, under the guise of better service. Once on the take, the city can be expected to take ever more and more of the livery cab industry's money, as it seeks to raise revenues without raising taxes on the well-to-do.

Weep not for this decision. If Bloomberg really wanted to improve service, he could just tell Ray Kelly to go slow on enforcement.

Aug. 18 2012 11:30 PM
Robot Tay

Allowing only street hails by yellow cabs ignores the fact that yellow cabs just don't leave mid and lower manhattan. Why can't everyone else in NYC get the same service???

Aug. 17 2012 09:10 PM

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