Top NY Court Upholds Livery Street Pickup Rights in 5 Boroughs

Cab drivers had argued the cost of an individual medallion was nearly $700,000 and allowing livery street hails would devalue them

New York's highest court on Thursday upheld the law allowing city livery cab drivers to pick up street hails in the city's four outer boroughs and northern Manhattan.

The 2012 law backed by Mayor Bloomberg ends the exclusive right of the city's yellow medallion cabs to pick up street hails. The Court of Appeals in Albany rejected claims by medallion owners and taxi lenders that the law is unconstitutional.

Last June, a judge barred the Taxi and Limousine Commission from proceeding with plans to sell new permits that let livery cabs pick up passengers who hail them but exclude Manhattan's central business district and the two airports in Queens. The plan to sell 18,000 such permits also authorized the city to sell 2,000 new medallions to cabs that can accommodate disabled passengers.

"With this decision, we can finally bring safe, reliable taxi service to the four and a half boroughs that don't currently have it," Bloomberg said. "That's a victory for everyone who lives in, works in or visits New York City."

The court, ruling unanimously, concluded that the law didn't violate the city's state constitutional authority to manage its own affairs because of the exception in cases where the state has "substantial interest."

"This is not a purely local issue. Millions of people from within and without the state visit the city annually," Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. wrote. "Efficient transportation services in the state's largest city and international center of commerce is important to the entire state. The act plainly furthers all of these significant goals."

According to the court, the new licensing provisions will apply to applicants from a pool of about 60,000 currently licensed livery vehicles, with 6,000 hail licenses to be issued each year over three years for $1,500 the first year, $3,000 the second and $4,500 the third. Pigott noted that some livery cabs have been illegally picking up street hails.

The 2,000 new medallions would follow 13,237 the City Council had authorized through 2008. Bloomberg had first approached the council with the livery cab proposal, but after there was no quick agreement, he approached the state Legislature.

In lobbying against the state legislation, cab drivers had said the cost of an individual medallion was nearly $700,000 and allowing livery street hails would devalue them.

GPS data collected by the taxi commission had showed 97 percent of medallion pickups were in central Manhattan and at the two airports. About 80 percent of the city's population lives in the other four boroughs.

A spokeswoman for the Greater New York Taxi Association, which represents medallion owners and operators, said Thursday that the joint objective must be to improve the legislation to ensure all vehicles meet the same standards and all drivers comply with the same rules for proper licensing, regular vehicle inspections, insurance, driver drug testing, credit card acceptance and passenger leg room.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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