ALBANY, New York — Lawyers representing drivers of New York City's yellow cabs told the state's top court a law that would allow people to hail livery cabs was an "end run" around city lawmakers that should stay off the books.
The lawyers for cabbies squared off against state and city attorneys Wednesday before the state Court of Appeals over a law that would allow livery cabs to pick up passengers who hail them on streets in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Currently, only yellow cabs can do that. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the plan would make travel easier for millions of people while providing the city with much-needed revenue.
The state Legislature approved the "Street Hail Livery Law" several years ago. But a trial-level judge ruled last year that the plan violates the state constitution's "home rule" provisions, which protect cities from undue interference by state legislators.
Lawyers opposing the measure said it was approved by state lawmakers only after a failed attempt to get it through the City Council.
"Mayor Bloomberg did an end run around his own City Council because they didn't bow to his wishes," said Randy Mastro, representing the Taxicab Service Association, a group of lenders who help people finance taxi medallion purchases.
Lawyers for the state and city told the judges that the state has an interest in making sure people in New York City have fair access to transportation.
"There's really no dispute here that there are significant deficiencies and inequities in access to street-hail transportation in New York City, especially true in the outer boroughs, especially true too as to persons with disabilities. And these affect residents, commuters and visitors," said Richard Dearing, the state's deputy solicitor general.
Under the plan, the livery cab "street hail" permits would initially be sold by the city for $1,500. The 2,000 new yellow cab medallions would have been restricted to vehicles that are wheelchair-accessible.
City officials have the medallion sales would generate $1.46 billion for the city, estimating each would sell for an average of $730,000 at auctions staggered over three years to keep from flooding the market.