MANHATTAN — New state legislation that allowed livery cab drivers to pick up passengers who flagged down the sedans from the street was put on hold Friday, on a judge's orders.
Three lawsuits filed on Thursday by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade seek to put a halt to the law, which was supposed to go into effect on Monday.
The new law allows livery taxi cabs to pick up street hails in Manhattan and the outer boroughs, but the MTBOT claims the plan will cut into their bottom line.
Justice Arthur Engoron issued a temporary restraining order on the law, which prohibits the city from issuing any permits on Monday, as originally planned.
A press release sent by the organization on Friday said that for the city to continue with issuing street-hail permits for livery cabs — a good deal of which operate in the outer boroughs or areas yellow cabs don't often service — would be to spell out "economic disaster for more than 5,000 individual taxi driver-owners and thousands more taxi owners and cabbies who invested their life savings into what they regarded as the American Dream," in a taxi medallion, the group stated.
City and state attorneys have argued that the plan would increase the yellow cab fleet by 2,000 taxis and make up to 18,000 new livery cabs available for legal street hails. They say it would not impact yellow-cab drivers, who rarely provide service in the outer boroughs or above 125th Street.
But the judge's opinion was that it appeared the city had unjustifiably skirted local laws by bringing the legislation directly to the state level. The same criticism had been made by City Council, the MTBOT and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who filed an amicus brief against the state in the cases.
"This Court has trouble seeing how the provision of taxi service in New York City is a matter of that can be wrenched from the hands of City government, where it has resided from some 75 years and handed over to the State," wrote the Judge Engoron, according to MTBOT.
But local livery drivers, and one commercial alliance that has been speaking on behalf of the individual drivers, Livery Base Owners Association, were deflated at the announcement.
"Over the past 40 years we have built an industry that serves millions of New Yorkers who the yellow industry has neglected," said Cira Angeles, of the Livery Base Owners, in a prepared statement. "The yellow industry tycoons and their high-priced lawyers will not intimidate us."
"With the support of our neighborhoods and the riding public, we will continue the battle in the halls of government, the courts of the state and the streets of New York to expand needed livery services across the boroughs," she said.
Up in Washington Heights, one of many city neighborhoods where yellow cab availability around the clock is rare, Rafael Brito, 56, chafed at the news of the halt.
"I don't think what the judge did is fair. Why have they backed off about this right now?" he said. Brito, who came to New York from the Dominican Republic, has been driving for Highbridge Luxury Cars for 15 years. The car service primarily serves just residents in Upper Manhattan and The Bronx.
"If this happens it's going to put all the pressure back on us again," he said, meaning, it's on small dispatch firms to advertise, promote, and compete for passengers instead of taking street hails. "All we want to do is have the chance of earning a living."