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Greater New York Taxi Ass'n v. New York City Taxi & Limousine Com'n

Supreme Court of New York, New York County

October 8, 2013

GREATER NEW YORK TAXI ASSOCIATION and Evgeny

[972 N.Y.S.2d 514] Mintz and Gold, LLP, by Steven G. Mintz, Esq., New York, for petitioners.

Michael A. Cardozo, Esq., Corporation Counsel, City of New York Law Department, by Nicholas R. Ciappetta, Esq., New York, for Respondents New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and David Yassky, as Chairman.

Jenner & Block LLP, by Harold M. Greenberg, Esq., New York, for Respondents-in-Intervention Nissan Taxi Marketing N.A., LLC and Nissan North America Inc.

SHLOMO S. HAGLER, J.

In this hybrid Article 78 and declaratory judgment proceeding, petitioners Greater New York Taxi Association and Evgeny " Gene" Friedman (" petitioners," " GNYTA" or " Friedman" ) moved by Order to Show Cause and Verified Petition, pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (" CPLR" ), seeking a judgment, in relevant part: (1) annulling, vacating and setting aside certain revisions and amendments to Title 35 of the Rules of the City of New York (" RCNY" ) which mandated the Nissan NV200 as the New York City Official Taxicab Vehicle otherwise dubbed the Taxi of Tomorrow to be effective as of October 2013 (the " Revised Taxi of Tomorrow Rules" ) and (2) declaring that the Revised Taxi of Tomorrow Rules " violate the law and that these rules are without effect." [1] Respondents The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and David Yassky (" respondents," " TLC" or " Yassky" ) interposed a Verified Answer along with voluminous opposition papers.

Thereafter, Nissan Taxi Marketing N.A. LLC and Nissan North America, Inc. (" Nissan" ) separately moved for an order pursuant to CPLR §§ 7802(d) and 401 to intervene as an " interested party" in this proceeding and for leave to file a Verified Answer. Petitioners opposed the motion to intervene. After oral argument on the hearing date of September 17, 2013, this Court granted Nissan's motion to intervene, in its entirety, for the reasons stated on the record.

Background

This is the second challenge to the Revised Taxi of Tomorrow Rules. In May, [972 N.Y.S.2d 515] 2013, the prior iteration of the Taxi of Tomorrow Rules was found to be unenforceable as they violated New York City Administrative Code § 19-533. [2]

In or about 1971, the City Charter was amended to create the TLC with the purpose of regulating and supervising the taxi and limousine industry. From its inception, it is uncontroverted that the New York City taxi fleet comprised various makes and models of vehicles made by different automobile manufacturers. These makes and models were then modified or " hacked-up" for use as taxis. In essence, the TLC set the specific standards for the composition and hack-up of taxis and the medallion owners were given the freedom to purchase any make or model of vehicle from any manufacturer who met those exacting standards.

This long-standing historical perspective changed in December 2009, when the TLC issued a request for proposals (" RFP" ) inviting automobile manufacturers and designers to submit plans for an " iconic" New York City taxi to be the exclusive and sole manufacturer of a purpose-built vehicle called the Taxi of Tomorrow. In November 2010, the TLC announced three finalists for the Taxi of Tomorrow: the Karsan VI, the Ford Transit Connect, and the Nissan NV200. The TLC then held an online public opinion poll to determine the public's reaction to the three finalists. In May 2011, the TLC announced that the Nissan NV200 was the winner of the Taxi of Tomorrow competition. The Nissan NV200 is neither a hybrid nor wheelchair accessible vehicle, but can be retrofitted for accessibility at an additional cost of approximately $14,000.

In September 2012, the TLC held a hearing regarding a proposed rule change mandating owners of unrestricted medallions to purchase the Nissan NV200. Later that month, the TLC designated the Nissan NV200 as the Official Taxicab Vehicle or Taxi of Tomorrow and required owners of unrestricted medallions to purchase the Nissan NV200, effective October 2013.

In October 2012, the City of New York and Nissan entered into a contract for a term of ten years wherein Nissan was granted the exclusive right to manufacture and supply the Official Taxicab Vehicle and replacement parts (" Vehicle Supply Agreement" ). The Vehicle Supply Agreement provides that the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (" MSRP" ) for the 2014 NV200 model is $29,700 and that the MSRP would increase by about $200 each year for the remaining nine years.

As stated above, the above rules were challenged and found violative of the New York City Administrative Code § 19-533 as there was no option available for medallion owners to purchase a hybrid vehicle. As a result, in May 2013, the TLC promulgated the Revised Taxi of Tomorrow Rules to comply with the New York City Administrative Code § 19-533. In June 2013, a public hearing was held to essentially offer unrestricted medallion owners an option to purchase hybrid vehicles until Nissan develops a hybrid version of the Nissan NV200.

In or about 2005, the TLC previously set the standard EPA interior volume index specification for taxis at 101.5 cubit feet. Initially, the Revised Taxi of Tomorrow Rules significantly increased the EPA interior volume index specification for taxicab vehicles to 138 cubic feet, but later at the public hearing Yassky decreased that specification [972 N.Y.S.2d 516] to 130 cubic feet. These rule changes effectively reduced the pool of approved hybrid taxi ...


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