Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
Judge Invalidates NYC's Taxi of Tomorrow
Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - 03:42 PM
A New York State Supreme Court justice has struck down New York City's "Taxi of Tomorrow" plan, invalidating one of Mayor Bloomberg's signature initiatives.
Justice Shlomo S. Hagler ruled that the plan violated the separation of powers — and the Taxi and Limousine Commission had "exceeded its authority."
"Simply stated, the power to contract and compel medallion owners to purchase the Nissan NV200 from Nissan for 10 years does not exist in the City Charter," he wrote in his ruling (see below).
That power, he wrote, belongs to the City Council.
Predictably, city officials bristled at his decision.
"We believe the Court's decision is fundamentally wrong, and we intend to appeal immediately," said NYC Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo in a statement.
TLC Commissioner David Yassky wrote in an email: “Aside from its being by far the safest taxicab ever designed, the NV200 has superior legroom, a panoramic roof and a host of other comforts and amenities; we remain committed to bringing it to the riding public.”
And the head of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said the justice's decision would cost drivers. “Drivers are the majority of vehicle purchasers," said Bhairavi Desai. "The Taxi of Tomorrow allows us to use our collective purchasing power to lower the sales costs and have an unprecedented 150,000 miles warranty. Drivers and passengers lost today. Special interests won.”
While Mayor Bloomberg had no formal statement by Tuesday afternoon, his press secretary Marc LaVorgna tweeted the city's taxi industry was a "gilded special interest made untouchable via Inception-style maze of archaic laws."
But the vehicle seems to have always had an uphill battle.
Soon after the NYC TLC chose the Nissan as its "Taxi of Tomorrow," the pick came under fire for being neither wheelchair accessible nor environmentally friendly (the gas-burning Nissan gets 24 miles per gallon).
City Comptroller John Liu vowed to block the contract. And the lawsuit filed by the Greater New York Taxi Association said the mayor's taxi plan resembled his ban on sugary supersized soft drinks — and thus was a mayoral overreach.
The taxi was also an issue in this year's mayoral campaign. At a debate before the primaries, the mayoral candidates all took aim at the TLC. Recently, Democratic frontrunner Bill de Blasio said he'd replace David Yassky as TLC commissioner.
(De Blasio also came out swinging against the Taxi of Tomorrow last year, tweeting a photo of the Nissan with an image of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad behind the wheel. At the time, de Blasio was criticizing Nissan for doing business in Iran.)
The justice's ruling comes just weeks before an Oct. 28 deadline requiring the purchase of all new yellow taxis to be Nissan NV200s.
A spokesman for Nissan said the company was disappointed in the court's decision, but remained pragmatic.
"It affects our exclusivity, but we will go ahead and start selling it at the end of the month, to anybody who wants to buy it, "said Travis Parman, director of corporate communications for Nissan America.
A written statement from Nissan added: "We are evaluating options for next steps regarding the exclusivity contract."
Read the ruling below.