De Blasio, a taxi-industry ally, will start by ditching Yassky

Mayor Bloomberg and David Yassky in a taxi. (Spencer T Tucker via nyc.gov)
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Bill de Blasio, who has received more than $250,000 from the taxi industry, today vowed to replace taxi commissioner David Yassky.

"Well, I'd start by getting a new chairman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission," said de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for mayor, speaking to WWRL radio show host Mark Riley this morning. "The guy who’s there now, David Yassky, is someone who I've regularly disagreed with. And I want someone who will work with the drivers."

Yassky has, in fact, often had a good working relationship with the Taxi Workers Alliance (the closest thing the yellow cab drivers have to a union). He's also worked closely with the black livery car industry to create a new fleet of lime-green "borough taxis" for the places in New York City where yellow cab service is scarce.

The people who own million-dollar taxi medallions are another story entirely.

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Yassky and the Bloomberg administration have clashed repeatedly with medallion owners—over that borough taxi plan and over the contentious Taxi of Tomorrow program, among other things.

Those medallion owners, meanwhile, have donated heavily to de Blasio's mayoral campaign.

"A review of all contributions to de Blasio raised by or made by taxi lawyers, owners and other associates in the 2013 campaign tallies $254,451, making them de Blasio’s biggest backers by far," reported Wayne Barrett in the Daily News earlier this month. "Fleet owner Ron Sherman is the most powerful taxi leader, just as his father Donald was in the 1980s before he was convicted in a federal felony case, and he orchestrated the de Blasio deluge of support."

That said, there's nothing extraordinary about de Blasio wanting to put his own person in charge of the T.L.C. Yassky, like nearly all Bloomberg appointees, would have been looking for a new job anyway.

"I have great respect for Bill de Blasio, and I am proud of the TLC’s accomplishments in bringing taxi service to northern Manhattan and the boroughs, and to wheelchair users, as well as raising taxi drivers to a living wage, introducing taxi-hailing smartphone apps, and producing a state-of-the-art, custom-designed taxi vehicle," Yassky emailed me, in response to de Blasio's comments. "I am sure that taxi and car service passengers will be well served by the next Administration."

Bloomberg deputy mayor Howard Wolfson, meanwhile, took to Twitter on Yassky's behalf, after assemblyman and borough-taxi opponent Micah Kellner said "Amen!" to the news that de Blasio wanted to ditch Yassky.

"@MicahKellner among the differences btwn you and Yassky is that he passed the vet for commissioner," tweeted Wolfson, referring presumably to the sexual harassment allegations that sunk Kellner's recent bid to join the City Council. "You wouldn't."

Kellner opposed the original borough-taxi plan when it didn't include wheelchair accessibility requirements, but voted for an amended plan that did. Now he takes issue with the plan's implementation, because it isn't prioritizing putting wheelchair-accessible cars on the road.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, released the following statement in response to de Blasio's comments: "Given how much money the taxi industry has poured in to the campaigns, we fear that the next Mayor will feel the need to be at their beck and call. It's good Bill DeBlasio is talking about drivers. We hope once in office he sticks to his words. The real test for the next Mayor will be how he handles the lease and regulations concerning the inequitable relationship between drivers and fleets. To his credit, Commissioner Yassky established an enforcement unit to prosecute lease overcharges and championed a fare raise with no lease cap increase. If Mr. DeBlasio is truthful, his Commissioner will do the same and even more."