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Queens Chronicle

Outer Borough Taxi Plan back on track

Court of Appeals rules in favor of Bloomberg livery car proposals

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 10:30 am

The New York State Court of Appeals has cleared the way for implementation of Mayor Bloomberg’s Outer Borough Taxi Plan.

The ruling, issued by the court on June 6, paves the way for livery car operators to get licenses that will allow them to accept street hails with the exception of Midtown and Downtown Manhattan and the city’s two airports.

The 23-page ruling will allow the city to sell 18,000 special hail licenses in the next three years, as well as 2,000 new medallions for yellow cabs that must be handicapped-accessible.

“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 following the decision.

The mayor said the plan was drawn up to allow livery drivers to service riders in places yellow cabs have traditionally opted to leave alone in favor of the more lucrative runs from Manhattan’s business district, and LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports.

The yellow cab industry fought the plan, which taxi medallion owners say deprives them of the exclusive street hail rights throughout the city.

By law livery car drivers right now are forbidden to take street hails. Those buying the new licenses must paint their cars a Grannysmith apple green in color.

Back in August a lower court judge threw out the taxi plan, saying the mayor violated home rule regulations by having the plan passed by the state legislature rather than the City Council.

Bloomberg did so after reaching an impasse in the Council. Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) was accused of refusing to allow the plan to come up for a vote.

Quinn, seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, also has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the yellow taxi industry.

The Court of Appeals ruled last week that the state possesses “a substantial interest” in taxi service in the city, thus giving the legislature purview over “a substantial state concern.”

Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica) said he is pleased by the ruling.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We have suffered for decades from a lack of yellow cab service in my district. The only time most cab drivers seem to come to Southeast Queens is when they are passing through to get to the airport.”

Scarborough said the ruling also would make it easier for livery car drivers and owners who choose to apply for the permits to make a better living. But City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) is taking a more guarded approach.

“We have drivers here who are already taking illegal hails in livery cars and in what we call the ‘dollar vans,’” Richards said. “And if that continues, they will still be eating into the income of legal yellow taxi owners in my district.”

And Richards said some things may not change with any law, no matter how many yellow taxis operate in a given area.

“Particularly for men of color,” he said. “I still have difficulty getting a cab in Manhattan.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he has many livery car operators in his district, but still is unsure of what the ripple effects of the outer borough plan will be.

“In general, any plan that increases transportation options is one worthy of discussion,” he said.

But Addabbo, like Richards, said he is taking a wait-and-see approach.

In a statement issued by her office, Quinn acknowledged that the ruling “will mean improved taxi service for the boroughs outside Manhattan, 2,000 additional accessible taxis and $300 million in the upcoming budget that will pay for police officers, teachers, libraries and other critical services that are important to New Yorkers.”

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