12:45 pm Jul. 17, 20121
Public Advocate and would-be mayor Bill de Blasio, who championed the cause of taxi owners against the Bloomberg administration's attempts at reform, hauled in a hefty load of campaign donations from the industry.
This morning, the Daily News reported that "Public Advocate Bill de Blasio received $78,000 in bundled contributions from taxi industry executives and a lobbyist right after he backed lawsuits filed by the industry to stop Mayor Bloomberg’s outer-borough taxi plan."
Among the bundlers was Jean Barrett, the executive director of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, an industry group representing fleets that run about 40 percent of the city's taxis, and Evgeny Friedman, who manages a fleet of 850 cabs, the city's largest.
Other contributors to de Blasio's campaign include Alvin Murstein, the chairman of Medallion Financial Group, a publicly traded company that underwrites taxi medallion sales and on whose board former Governor Mario Cuomo sits; and Richard Kay, C.E.O. of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners Incorporated, which has more than $200 million in assets.
Taxi medallion owners have consistently opposed Bloomberg's plan to create a new fleet of 18,000 so-called borough taxis, designed to service the outer boroughs where yellow cabs are scarce. The plan, signed into law by the governor this year, would also allow the city to auction off 2,000 regular yellow taxi medallions, thereby filling a gaping hole in the city's budget.
In June, a New York State Acting Supreme Court Justice and former cabbie, Arthur Engoron, issued a temporary injunction of the mayor's taxi plan in response to three lawsuits, one of which was filed by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade and backed by de Blasio.
Engoron endorsed the plaintiffs' argument that the city violated the law by not first securing City Council approval before repairing to Albany.
De Blasio argued that he was protecting the city's right to self-govern.
The Bloomberg administration, meanwhile, accused de Blasio of playing politics.
When de Blasio urged the city to approve a portion of the taxi plan and then seek re-approval from Albany, Bloomberg's spokeswoman, Julie Wood, issued a withering statement.
"Mr. De Blasio woke up this morning and realized that his special interest advocacy on behalf of millionaire taxi fleet owners could cost the city a billion dollars," she said. "Too bad his half-hearted pleas for the City Council to get himself out of this jam won’t work legally. Instead of playing politics, he should have supported taxi service for all New Yorkers from the start.”
Today, in a statement, de Blasio's campaign spokeswoman countered, "Bill de Blasio stood up to an illegal process that set a dangerous precedent for our city and that is precisely what the Public Advocate is supposed to do. This was about protecting New York City's home rule from Albany—an issue a State judge deemed serious enough to slap a restraining order on the Mayor and TLC."
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