De Blasio administration relents on green taxi expansion
Yesterday, Mayor Bill de Blasio's taxi commissioner, Meera Joshi, said the city couldn't commit to issuing any new green taxi permits in 2014, pending further conversation with "stakeholders."
This would have frozen the planned expansion of the Bloomberg-initiated borough taxi program, which has proven popular, but which de Blasio has long opposed.
Today, following reports in both tabloids, The New York Times and Capital that de Blasio was delaying the program, and that he had also reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from its opponents in the yellow-taxi industry, the administration is now committing to resume the expansion after only a minor delay.
"The City will sell additional [green taxi] permits from the second tranche of 6,000 permits authorized by the law as soon as the TLC finalizes a fully considered plan on how to make those vehicles and the overall fleet as accessible as possible, and has approval from the State on a Disabled Accessibility Plan (DAP)," reads the release. "The DAP will be shared with the New York City Council for its review at the end of May, and is then due to the New York State Department of Transportation in mid-June for action by mid-August. Permit issuance should then begin in late summer. It is anticipated that the DAP approval process will incorporate crucial guidance on accessibility requirements for new issuances of outer borough permits."
Asked if the city was commiting to issuing all 6,000 permits or just some portion of them, taxi spokesman Allan Fromberg clarified that this meant all of the permits would be issued.
"The commitment is there," he said, and "the plan will address how we will add the full 6,000."
The city issued the first 6,000 of a planned total of 18,000 permits in 2013. The law allows a third tranche of 6,000 to be issued by the city next year. The administration has not committed yet to the third tranche.
At a Council hearing yesterday, Joshi said the city would not issue new permits on June 12, as it is legally allowed to do, because the administration needed to do more "stakeholder engagement" to determine how well the program was working.
When a reporter asked her if she could commit to issuing them this year, she said, "That’s a matter of how long it takes for the engagement process to continue," adding, "I don’t think that I’m in a position now to say that this will not happen in 2014. We’re actively engaging, like right now, with everybody."
Yesterday Joshi also said she anticipated the program would be amended, following that stakeholder engagement. She reiterated that today.
“The expansion of this service will have far-reaching effects on many constituencies, and the importance of fully considering accessibility, making sure that every stakeholder’s voice is heard, and that all concerns have been heard and addressed is vital to the continued success of this program,” she said, in a statement.
Yellow-taxi medallion owners, who provided substantial support to de Blasio during his campaign for mayor, have consistently opposed the Bloomberg reforms to the old system, and are hoping to make changes to the current one.
Taxi Club Management principal Evgeny Freidman, one of the city's most prominent fleet owners, a de Blasio donor, and an opponent of the existing borough taxi plan, responded to the announcement with the following emailed statement: "Sounds like they are softening their message from yesterday for the public and to prevent any appearance of impropriety which there clearly is not! But I believe they will still committed to the same course of action of getting it right and correct and will follow that law as it was written and intended! Meera and [de Blasio] are idealistic about this program being in place to benefit the lives of New Yorkers, not a simple vanity and legacy project as it was of the previous administration!"