Livery cabs have received the green light to begin picking up street hails, a decision that has many yellow taxi drivers red in the face.
The decision was passed 7-2 by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission on Thursday, April 19.
“We’re seeing the birth of a wholly new service today that will allow communities throughout the five boroughs to enjoy and come to rely on the same levels of quality taxi service that are only experienced in portions of Manhattan,” said TLC Commissioner and Chair David Yassky.
Like yellow taxis, the fleet will have a unique color that has yet to be revealed, roof lights and meters.
Six thousand of the 18,000 street hail licenses will begin being sold for $1,500 in June, though a lawsuit filed a day before the vote has requested an injunction.
“The very same city that sold [yellow taxi drivers] the exclusive right to pick up street hails, no longer has the exclusive right,” said Michael Woloz, spokesperson for the
Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which represents nearly 4,000 yellow medallion taxicabs.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, charges that the outer borough street hail plan violates the rights of yellow taxi medallion owners and drivers who paid for the exclusive right to pick up street hails in New York City.
“The over 5,000 individual owner/drivers are not wealthy people,” Woloz said. “These are New Yorkers who have invested in an asset that New York City has protected for the last 75 years. The value of the medallion is going to plummet because of government interference.”
Woloz cited more than $5 billion in outstanding medallion loans and the potential for a housing market-like crash if the value of the medallions declines.
Because the bill was passed by the state Legislature without a “Home Rule” message from the City Council, the lawsuit says the bill is in violation of the state constitution. A
“Home Rule” message indicates the approval of the local legislative body over a policy that only affects that locality.
“State senators from western New York had more say on taxi service in Queens than any City Council members,” Woloz said.
If a judge allows the plan to stand, street hails will only be legal above West 110th Street and East 96th Street and in the four outer boroughs. Liveries that solicit street hails in a prohibited area face the forfeiture of their license.