Justice Shlomo S. Hagler of State Supreme Court in Manhattan said the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission had exceeded its authority in devising a plan to require that nearly all yellow taxi operators purchase the same vehicle, a Nissan NV200 — the model chosen by the city as part of the Taxi of Tomorrow competition in 2011.
While the city’s Law Department pledged to appeal immediately, administration officials conceded that completing such a challenge before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg leaves office could be difficult.
The mayor’s potential successors may be disinclined to carry on the fight. Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, has opposed the Taxi of Tomorrow plan. A spokesman said he was studying the decision. A spokeswoman for Joseph J. Lhota, the Republican nominee, said on Tuesday that he hailed the ruling and would not continue any appeal.
Plaintiffs in the case, a group of yellow taxi operators called the Greater New York Taxi Association, had cast the Taxi of Tomorrow as an executive overreach akin to the mayor’s attempted ban on large sugary drinks.
Justice Hagler agreed that the taxi commission had governed beyond its mandate, writing that “the power to contract and compel medallion owners to purchase” the vehicle “does not exist in the City Charter.”
The legal headaches wrought by the Nissan Taxi of Tomorrow — criticized since its inception for being neither a hybrid nor wheelchair-accessible (unless modified) — may not disappear with the cab itself. Nissan, which secured a 10-year contract with the city worth an estimated $1 billion, may seek to recoup production costs and other expenses already incurred. A spokesman said the company was “evaluating options for next steps regarding the exclusivity contract,” adding that the company had already invested more than $50 million in the program.
The city has had a checkered legal record against the taxi industry.
In May, another State Supreme Court judge invalidated the Taxi of Tomorrow plan, saying it violated a city administrative code provision requiring a hybrid option for taxi operators. The taxi commission later passed new rules to allow some hybrids as an alternative to the NV200.
The city is also facing a suit from accessibility advocates who argue that the Taxi of Tomorrow is a van, noting that the NV200 has won awards for “Van of the Year.” Under federal law, the suit says, any van used as a taxicab must be accessible for people with disabilities.
The administration has succeeded in other taxi skirmishes, though. After more than a year of delays in court, the city introduced a fleet of street-hail livery taxis, cast in “apple green,” this year, expanding legal street-hail access beyond Manhattan. The city has also overseen the emergence of taxi-hailing smartphone apps.
Both Nissan and the city said that some of the cabs, which were expected to debut at the end of October, could appear anyway in the coming weeks.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement that “drivers and passengers lost today. Special interest won.”
But Ethan B. Gerber, the executive director of the Greater New York Taxi Association, doubted the cab would prove popular among drivers anyway.