By Rebecca Henely
Times Ledger. (New York, NY), December 26, 2012
Two Queens city councilmen from opposite sides of the political spectrum have thrown their support behind city Comptroller John Liu’s rejection of the proposed new yellow cabs for not being handicapped accessible.
“I support taxis for all, not just taxis for some,” Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said in a statement. “We need a fleet that serves all New Yorkers. Halfway measures are inadequate. Our disabled community deserves full access.”
The car manufacturer Nissan won the city’s request for proposals in May 2011 to create New York’s new taxis now that Ford’s Crown Victoria is being discontinued. Nissan’s cabs, the NV200 design, include sliding doors, passenger air bags, passenger climate controls, flat seats, more luggage room, passenger charging stations and reading lights.
Liu officially nixed the city’s contract with Nissan to create the new “Taxi of Tomorrow” Friday, saying the agreement has the potential to violate the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act and open up the city to lawsuits.
“We should not go ahead with a so-called Taxi of Tomorrow that perpetuates a shamefully separate and unequal cab fleet for another decade,” Liu said in a statement.
The comptroller’s criticism has gained the support of some accessibility advocates as well as Dromm and Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).
“The city has a major decision to make on a taxi of the future, and we must consider the future of all New Yorkers including those with disabilities,” Halloran said in a statement, adding that a manufacturer had promised to create taxis that would be handicapped-accessible and made locally.
The city Law Department had previously cast doubt upon whether the comptroller’s office had the power to reject the contract, and the city Taxi & Limousine Commission previously claimed that the organization was in compliance with the ADA. The commission cited the 2,000 handicapped-accessible yellow cabs that would be added to the city’s streets as part of the outerborough taxi plan, but a Manhattan Supreme Court judge struck down the plan as unconstitutional in August, leaving their future in jeopardy.
Liu said to make the new cabs handicapped-accessible would require a yellow cab medallion owner to pay an estimate of $14,000, or half the cost of the car, to put a wheelchair ramp in the trunk. He also said having the new cabs not be handicapped-accessible could make it more difficult to evacuate people with disabilities in a disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy.
“We must not allow New York’s yellow taxi fleet to become a symbol of exclusion that tramples the rights of wheelchair users,” Liu said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org