Comptroller John Liu has vowed to reject New York City’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” contract unless all of the taxis are made handicapped accessible, he announced today. One of the chief powers of the Comptroller’s Office is making recommendations regarding city contracts and his move could, well, handicap the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to move forward with the new taxi design.
“With the Taxi of Tomorrow, Mayor Bloomberg had the opportunity to transform the way New Yorkers get around the city whether they’re on two feet or four wheels,” Assemblyman Micah Kellner, a prominent disability rights advocate, declared in Mr. Liu’s statement. “Sadly, his choice for the Taxi of Tomorrow – the Nissan NV-200 – will be remembered as the Cathie Black of taxis. The Mayor should scrap his contract with Nissan and commit to making every taxi accessible topeople with disabilities.”
For his part, Mr. Liu also argued the taxi contract is illegal under federal law. At the end of last year, a judge ruled that the city needed to expand its fleet of handicap-accessible taxis.
“The new contract for taxis presents us with a historic opportunity to right a wrong that New Yorkers with disabilities have been fighting to achieve for nearly two decades,” Mr. Liu said. “Requiring cabs to have independent passenger climate controls is nice, but when you fail to make them accessible to a growing number of New Yorkers, it’s not just a slap in the face, it’s illegal. We will send back any plan that does not uphold the civil rights demanded by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Mr. Liu, a likely candidate for mayor, is not the only Gracie Mansion prospect who has waded into the taxi cab debate. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is currently waging a campaign against the Nissan contract due to the auto manufacturer’s ties to Iran.
Update: New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has provided two statements responding to Mr. Liu:
Statement from Allan J. Fromberg, the spokesperson for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission
“The Comptroller’s actions today are both mysterious and clearly ill-informed. First, the TLC is in full compliance with ADA, and will remain in compliance. The District Court ruling has been stayed and is on appeal, and we will comply with all judicial rulings. But that said, it’s a simple fact that we’ve made more progress on wheelchair accessible transportation options in the past year than anyone has in the last three decades. Nissan is producing a wheelchair accessible version of the NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow, the City will create an additional 2,000 wheelchair accessible medallion licenses, we’re on the cusp of launching a demand responsive wheelchair accessible taxi dispatch system, and a full 20% of all the new Boro Taxis will be wheelchair accessible. The TLC has also greatly incentivized the purchase of accessible vehicles by adding several years to their mandatory retirement age, and subsidizing the cost of accessible Boro Taxis by $15,000 per vehicle, on top of a $10,000 State tax credit.
“Lastly, in response to our years of challenging taxi fleets to do more to facilitate service to wheelchair users, it was a common complaint of those fleets that there were no viable wheelchair accessible vehicles for them to use, but now the TLC has approved the MV1, and has an accessible NV200 on the way and we are strongly encouraging them to make use of these new options.”
Statement from Kate O’Brien Ahlers, the spokesperson for the New York City Law Department:
“While the Comptroller and the others who participated in his press event today are free to espouse their policy position, Comptroller Liu may not ignore his responsibilities under the New York City Charter to further these positions. Unfortunately, he’s proposing to do just that. The law limits the issues upon which the Comptroller can refuse to register a contract. None of the matters he raised today — including ADA compliance — would constitute lawful grounds for refusing to do so.”