The City is trying to move the latest lawsuit attacking its failure to regulate Uber out of Queens.
In the lawsuit, four lenders who finance the purchase of taxi medallions argue that the city and its TLC are letting ride-share companies such as Uber pick up passengers who hail cars using smartphone apps, which is tantamount to accepting street hails. By letting Uber and others operate freely, the city is depriving medallions holders of their exclusive right to respond to street hails, the lawsuit alleges.
The City says that the case should be in Manhattan, where a similar case has been filed, because the Mayor’s principal place of business is there. Lawyers for the plaintiffs called the City’s motion “judge shopping.” They note also that the TLC’s largest office is in Queens and that a plurality of taxi drivers live in Queens.
Annie sang: “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, you’re always a day away!”
And so it is with the Taxi of Tomorrow.
The planed rollout has been delayed again by a ruling by the New York Court of Appeals. The court, the state’s highest, granted a stay in a continuing appeal over the vehicle.
The puts efforts to phase in the Nissan NV200 as the only acceptable New York yellow taxi on hold while the court decides an appeal brought by a a prominent taxi owners group. The NYC TLC had April 20 as the date after which most taxi owners would have to switch to the new vehicle when they retire their cabs.
The Greater New York Taxi Association has opposed the NV200, arguing that the Bloomberg administration exceeded its authority by trying to force drivers to buy a certain vehicle. Traditionally, the TLC had established standards for taxicabs, but allowed any car that met those standards to be used as a yellow cab. The TLC’s long-delayed plan does not apply to livery cabs or black cars, which now outnumber yellow cabs.
According to BloombergBusinessweek report, the Appellate Division ruled that the Taxi of Tomorrow program is a “legally appropriate response to the agency’s statutory obligation to produce a 21st-century taxicab consistent with the broad interests and perspectives that the agency is charged with protecting.” Judge David B. Saxe wrote the majority opinion. That there was a dissent by Judge Acosta makes an appeal to the New York Court of Appeals more likely.
Nissan won a contract with the city in May 2011 that allowed it to be the sole maker of NYC taxis, a deal valued at $1 billion over 10 years.
Taxi fleet operators sued the city in December 2012 on the ground that the TLC had the authority to issue standards, but not to designate a particular vehicle. A judge halted the program five months later. The city subsequently revised its rules to allow for more hybrid vehicles, something the TLC had previously advocated. The Nissan vehicle is not a hybrid, yet the TLC made it mandatory.
But in today’s ruling, the court wrote: “Where an agency has been endowed with broad power to regulate in the public interest, we have not hesitated to uphold reasonable acts on its part designed to further the regulatory scheme. Here … far-reaching control has been delegated to a commission charged with implementing a pervasive regulatory program. This far-reaching control granted to the TLC by the New York City Charter gave the agency full authority for its actions.
Judge Acosta said in dissent th
at the commission exceeded its authority, “regardless of whether the Taxi of Tomorrow project is rational and consistent” with its objectives, because it mandated the exclusive use of a specific make, model and manufacturer.
The T o T was a darling of the Bloomberg administration. The new mayor, Bill De Blasio, has decidedly different views about the taxi industry so it remains to be seen whether the city and the TLC will seek to revive the program.
On June 6, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in NY state, unanimously upheld the Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to radically expand so-called street-hail taxi service beyond Manhattan, signaling a fundamental shift in New York City’s entrenched taxi culture.
The decision permits a plan, which had been held in violation of New York’s “Home Rule” law, that will allow thousands of the newly designated taxis — painted green, rather than yellow — to accept street hails in the city’s outer boroughs and in northern Manhattan.
The plan has been advertised as addressing an inequity by which that has existed for decades by which folks outside Manhattan were left without taxis. In fact, most of New York had cabs widely available. But these were livery cabs that had to be called or “pre-arranged.” Only yellow taxis were permitted to accept street hails. For the classic take by Howard Husock on the City’s Three-Tier Taxi System, click here
While the legal wrangling focused on whether the new law could be enacted by the state legislature rather than the NYC City Council, the real issue involves a turf fight between taxi companies. Yellow cab owners figured that when they paid for a medallion, which can trade for as much as $1 million, they bought exclusive rights to accept street hails.
The Court of Appeals took the unusual step of accepting the appeal straight from the trial court without requiring an intermediate appeal. Its decision upsets the apple cart in a major way. It also ends a serious litigation losing streak for the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.