NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit by New York City pedicab operators who accused city officials of excessive ticketing to drive them out of business.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said Capitol Pedicabs LLC, which owned 30 pedicab licenses, and former driver Bourama Camera failed to show that the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other defendants violated their rights to equal protection and against illegal searches and seizures.
Police were accused in the lawsuit of having since 2011 subjected pedicab drivers to mass ticketing and suspicionless stops, based on instructions “from above” to “stop all pedicabs” while favoring taxis and livery vehicles.
Drivers said this had made survival difficult because of the risk and cost of fines and license suspensions, as well as the loss of customers during lengthy police inspections.
But the judge said the plaintiffs failed to show that police lacked reasonable suspicion to make stops when they did, or that the policy was unconstitutional.
“A policy that requires officers to ‘stop all pedicabs’ does not leave officers with unchecked discretion - in fact, it does just the opposite,” Forrest wrote. “Nothing in the [second amended complaint] suggests that officers chose to stop any particular pedicab for reasons other than timing or randomness.”
Austin Brown, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in an email said his clients may appeal.
The “harassment of hardworking pedicab drivers is an abuse of the city’s power, and I would like to see my clients pursuing their safe and environmentally efficient business in peace,” he said.
Meryl Holt, a spokeswoman for the city’s law department, said the city was pleased that the “meritless” claims were dismissed.
Capitol Pedicabs and Camera sued in March 2016, six weeks after de Blasio abandoned proposed restrictions on where pedicabs could go in Central Park, as part of a program to also reduce the number of horse-drawn carriages.
The case is Capitol Pedicabs LLC et al v. City of New York et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-01925.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas and Steve Orlofsky