Washington, D.C. The New York City Council today ignored the urgent pleas of commuter van drivers and their 40,000-plus daily passengers when it imposed a one-year moratorium on the issuance of any new so-called “dollar” van licenses in the city. Overriding a veto by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the City Council voted 35 to 9-one vote more than needed-to impose the moratorium.
“The one-year moratorium will prevent the expansion of a vital industry that each day carries more than 40,000 New York commuters to and from work,” said William Mellor, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice. In February, the Institute filed suit on behalf of four van drivers against the City and State of New York, challenging laws that unconstitutionally limit van services to the benefit of the public bus monopoly. “With this override, the City Council and the unions today won a skirmish, but the war is far from over. Ultimately van drivers and their customers will not be denied. All the drivers want is the opportunity to earn an honest living, but the City Council is denying them that right.”
Mellor said, “The van drivers and their customers have proven themselves both a force to be reckoned with. The vans have also shown themselves to be an essential part of New York’s transportation network serving people efficiently, safely and better than public transit.”
The vote was a close one with the Speaker of the City Council and others bringing tremendous pressure to bear to swing votes to the union side and against the vans. Mellor said, “Today we saw the worst arm-twisting in the City Council. I saw one City Council member in tears because of the intense pressure put on her to change her vote. But to the councilwoman’s credit, she stood her ground and voted with the vans.”
Hector Ricketts, a van entrepreneur represented by the Institute said, “We are not at all deterred by this. If anything we are more determined to fight and win.”
Mellor continued, “The action now returns to court where we are confident the moratorium and the original law that makes hard-working men and women outlaws, will be struck down.”