‘It’s detailed’: De Blasio explains his borough taxi opposition, sort of

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A borough taxi in Williamsburg. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Today, Bill de Blasio tried to explain his opposition to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's outer-borough taxi plan, the one that is supposed to usher $1 billion into city coffers.

"I'm not opposed to the sale of taxi medallions and I never have been," said de Blasio, at the Association for a Better New York breakfast where he called himself a "fiscal conservative." "So, my friends, let's work on our accuracy. I have said consistently that the core notion of the plan was valid. That the way the plan was finally articulated endangers some of the reality of this very complicated industry we have today. I think we can fix it. And I think we can get back to the work of selling those medallions. But we have to make some major revisions to the plan."

It's true that de Blasio does not oppose the sale of 2,000 new yellow taxi medallions, one component of the larger Albany legislation that also allows New York City to create 18,000, street-hailable green taxis to serve parts of New York where yellow taxis rarely go.

But De Blasio has also received more than $200,000 in campaign donations from the taxi industry, and served as one of the most outspoken critics of the borough taxi plan.

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Last year, he filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit against the plan filed by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade. The wealthy industry group controls 40 percent of city cabs and argues that the borough taxis will steal their business (even though the borough taxis would service parts of town that their cabs typically don't).

Medallion owners are less opposed to the portion of the plan that de Blasio supports—the part that would allow the city to auction off 2,000 wheelchair-accessible yellow taxi medallions for about $1 million each.

So then, how will de Blasio fix the plan?

"It's detailed, but I'll say it in broad stroke," he said today. "We have to make sure that the financing underlying each piece of the transportation industry—the yellow cabs, the livery cabs, etc.—the financing is not endangered, because there's an elaborate financing system built up over decades that makes that whole industry work. And we have to make sure that each segment of the industry can continue to be viable economically, and that the right balance is struck between the different pieces. I think it's not gonna take too much to achieve, that kind of rebalancing. And that's gonna allow us to move forward with medallion sales."