9:00 am May. 31, 2012
On Tuesday, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked about Public Advocate Bill de Blasio joining a lawsuit challenging his ambitious plan to bring taxi service to the outer boroughs, he said, "I just can't keep up with all the suits."
He wasn't kidding.
The legal challenges to the mayor's borough taxi plan continue to accumulate. On May 24, the powerful Greater New York Taxi Association sued the city and state of New York, arguing that its borough taxi plan violates the city charter. That, along with the suit by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade and another by the Taxicab Service Association (represented by former deputy mayor Randy Mastro), makes three. And that's not even including the suit about the wheelchair accessibility of taxis filed before the advent of the borough taxi compromise, but which a judge later broadened to encompass the plan.
A judge will hold a hearing on all three suits on Thursday at 10 a.m. at 80 Centre Street.
In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a compromise allowing New York City to create a new, 18,000-strong fleet of so-called "borough taxis" to service the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan, where yellow cabs are scarce. It also allowed the city to auction off 2,000 regular yellow taxi medallions, which the city is counting on to plug a $1 billion hole in its 2013 fiscal year budget.
Taxi medallion owners argue that the move will undermine their street-hail exclusivity, upon which the million-dollar value of their medallions is based.
"The medallion itself has no intrinsic value," said Ethan Gerber, executive director of Greater New York Taxi Association. "The medallion is just a piece of tin that gets affixed to a car."
Further, medallion owners argue, among other things, that the Bloomberg administration violated the City Charter by not first attaining City Council approval before going to Albany.
David Yassky, the Taxi and Limousine Commissioner, counters that transportation in New York City is intrinsic to its economy, which is, in turn, intrinsic to the health of New York State, and so therefore it is indeed a state concern.
As for the question of medallion value, Yassky argues it's rooted elsewhere.
"A medallion owner makes money by renting the medallion out 730 times a year, twice a day every day," said Yassky. "There will be plenty of drivers ready to pay the lease rate of that medallion, 730 times a year, or 52 times a year if they’re weekly."
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