New York Vans

Ricketts v. New York City
IJ Helped Open Up New York City Commuter Van Market

Dennis Harry, Vincent Cummins, Pat Harvey and Hector Ricketts operate commuter van services in New York.

Rather than accept public handouts after he lost his job, Hector Ricketts went into business for himself driving jitney vans.  He founded Queens Van Plan, Inc., to provide much-needed reliable van service to low-income communities in New York that are isolated by inferior, expensive public transportation.  Hector’s vans—and those of other small companies—not only put people to work, they take people to work.

But standing in their way are the powerful New York City public transportation unions allied with opportunistic politicians and bureaucrats.  Under the unions’ influence, the New York City Council from 1994 to 1997 vetoed 98 percent of all new van licenses, keeping competition for commuters to a minimum.  And for the lucky few with licenses, arbitrary regulations forbid vans from operating on the same streets as any New York City bus and from picking up passengers except by “pre-arrangement.”

In February 1997, the Institute for Justice filed suit on behalf of Hector and three other van drivers.  The state trial court handed van entrepreneurs—and the commuters who rely on their service—a victory in June 1999 when it ended the City Council’s power to veto van licenses approved by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and struck down other licensing practices that limited the market.  But the court upheld the arbitrary regulations that needlessly restrict vans’ operations.  The appellate court affirmed that decision in March 2001 and in July 2002 the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) refused to take the case.

Hector Ricketts and other van entrepreneurs continue to serve commuters—and to battle the transportation unions and unjust laws through political means.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: Challenging Barriers to Economic Opportunity

Client Photo

Client Video - none available

Latest Release: New York Court of Appeals Denies Commuter Van Entrepreneurs Their Day in Court (July 23, 2002)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

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Launch Release: Blocked by Public Bus Monopoly, Van Drivers To Sue City & State of New York In Fight for Economic Liberty (February 7, 1997)

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


February 11, 1997

Court Filed:


New York State Supreme Court, New York County (New York’s trial court)



June 7, 1999: Trial court ruled in favor of van entrepreneurs by ruling that the New York City Council may not veto van licenses approved by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and striking down two provisions of the local law on van licensing: one that automatically denied van applications that are not granted within 180 days, and another allowing regulators to deny licenses without stating a reason.  The court declined to strike down operational limitations that prohibit vans from picking up and dropping off passengers along city bus routes and also restrict van operators to “pre-arranged” fares.  IJ appealed that portion of the ruling.



March 15, 2001: New York Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision upholding the arbitrary and anti-competitive restrictions on van operations; the court’s two-page decision offered no explanation to support its conclusion.   IJ appealed the decision.



July 9, 2002: New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) refused to hear the van operators’ appeal.

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Court Gives NYC Van Drivers Economic Liberty Victory (March 23, 1999)

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Release: Van Supporters Call New York City Council Report "Desperate Attempt to Preserve Illegitimate Control Over Industry" (January 11, 1999)

Release: NYC Van Drivers Applaud End Of Illegal Moratorium on Van Licenses, Call for End to Other Anti-Competitive Regulations (October 16, 1998)

Release: Court Case Asks: "Do American's Have the Right To Earn an Honest Living?" (September 15, 1998)

Release: Commuter Vans Rescue the Riding Public (May 13, 1998)

Release: Institute Condemns Anti-Van Moratorium Imposed by NYC City Council, Vows to Challenge Law (October 29, 1997)


Release: Brooklyn Van Driver Wins Battle With N.Y. City Council But War Over Economic Liberty is Not Over (August 5, 1997)


Release: Giving New York Van Drivers License Won't End Dispute, Regulations Still Block Road to Competition (July 14, 1997)


Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: On the Road to Economic Liberty; Liberty & Law (October 2002)

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