Two major court rulings Thursday cleared the way for a sweeping overhaul of how millions of taxi and livery car passengers move about the city.
The state's highest court upheld the planned creation of a new class of up to 18,000 apple green livery cars authorized to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan.
In a separate legal battle, an Appellate Division panel of justices lifted a temporary order blocking a pilot program enabling passengers to arrange yellow cab rides with drivers via smart-phone apps.
The rulings come one day after the Bloomberg administration announced more than 100,000 rides had been taken through its bike-share program in its first 10 days.
Put it all together, so far this is a phenomenal week," a clearly thrilled
Mayor Bloomberg said after a morning event in Harlem. "I don't know what we're going to do tomorrow. The city certainly is going in the right direction."
For decades, yellow cabs have had the exclusive right to pick up street hails but couldn't pre-arrange trips. Livery car drivers, on the other hand, were restricted to carrying passengers who scheduled rides through a dispatch.
But yellow taxis have notoriously balked at leaving Manhattan's central business district. And livery car drivers routinely break the law and pick up street hails but risk being fined by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The Five Borough Taxi plan enables the city to sell 6,000 livery street-hail permits a year for three years. The new class of liveries will be green in color and permitted to accept street hails north of E. 96th and W. 110th Sts. in Manhattan, and all of the other boroughs excluding the airports. One-fifth of those cars must be handicapped accessible under the plan that was codified by state legislation.
The Five Borough plan also authorizes the city to increase the yellow-taxi fleet through the sale of up to 2,000 medallions. The sale is expected to generate $1 billion in revenues. Those 2,000 yellow cabs also are required to be wheelchair accessible, under the law.
That would greatly increase the number of yellow cabs that can now accommodate someone with a wheelchair -- now just 231.
In a unanimous decision, the state Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that faulted Bloomberg for not getting approval of the plan from the City Council before going to Albany, where the legislature and governor approved it.
"This is not a purely local issue," the court said in its ruling. "Millions of people from within and without the state visit the city annually ... The act is the benefit of all New Yorkers, and not merely those residing within the city."
Fleet owners, who have had the exclusive and lucrative right to pick up street hails, grudgingly admitted defeat.
"While New York's yellow taxi industry will find a way to survive today's unfortunate court decision, the future of representative democracy in New York State is less clear," the organization said in a statement. "Today, the Court of Appeals delivered a crushing blow to New Yorkers who loathe the brand of end-run politics that created this law."
Some advocates for the disabled, however, were disappointed as they want the entire yellow taxi fleet to be wheelchair accessible.
"Taxi accessibility must be a basic requirement for New York City's taxis or other street-hail cars, as has been the case in London since 1989," the Taxis For All Campaign said in a statement.
The E-hail program is subject to a continued legal challenge by livery car industry groups. App providers celebrated.
"It's pretty rare that the transportation sector sees so much progress and justice on the same day," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said. "UberTAXI is fully up and running for yellow cabs and we look forward to helping New Yorkers hail green cabs too."