Friday, October 21, 2011

Koppell calls for 100% wheelchair accessible taxi fleet

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell hasn't fallen into a rut in his final term. In fact, he may be getting more attention and taking more risks than ever before. He's been fighting Bloomberg, Quinn and the city's biggest developers on the living wage issue for the past year, and more recently he's been battling Bloomberg over a taxi design for the disabled.

Earlier this week, Koppell held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to advocate for people with disabilities for a taxi fleet in New York City that is 100% wheelchair accessible.

Koppell, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services, joined colleagues and advocates for people with disabilities Wednesday, calling for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to stop ignoring federal regulations that call for every city cab to be wheelchair accessible.

According to the Daily News editorial on Oct. 16, “of the 13,237 yellow cabs in New York City, only 231 can accommodate a wheelchair. That‘s 1.7%, making the chance of hailing one almost impossible."

“This is wholly unacceptable,” Koppell said. “Also unacceptable is the fact that the Mayor and the Taxi and Limousine Commission have chosen an inaccessible Nissan model to be the so-called 'Taxi of Tomorrow' that  will be the exclusive design for New York City taxicabs for at least the next decade.”

Jump below for the full story.

In a recent filing, the Justice Department has strongly concluded that the Mayor’s decision to choose one inaccessible van model for the “Taxi of Tomorrow” and reliance on an ill-conceived dispatch plan violates the American with Disabilities Act.

Koppell has introduced a bill, with 36 co-sponsors,  that would require all new taxicabs to be accessible, in compliance with the ADA requirement for equality of access.

"It’s time for the Council to move this legislation forward because we cannot rely on the Mayor to respect the civil rights of people with disabilities," Koppell said. "His comments on his radio program clearly indicate that he does not understand the reality that wheelchair using New Yorkers face.”

“If we were to insist on all cabs being wheelchair accessible, they sell for about $15,000 more,” Bloomberg said on his radio show. “Their suspension is much worse. So, the average person riding in them finds them really uncomfortable.”

Bloomberg also said that they use a lot more gas and commented on the practicality of disabled people getting cabs.

“If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s really hard to go out in the street and hail down a cab and get the cab to pull over and get into it,” he said.

Bloomberg offered a different solution for people with disabilities. He would have those people make a phone call to have a specially equipped taxi dispatched.

Former Taxi and Limousine Commission chairs Diane McGrath-McKechnie and Christoper Lynn have both said that there is a growing consensus among New Yorkers that it is time to create a taxi fleet that can accommodate wheelchairs. They wrote to the Mayor, saying, “It’s time to reverse the shameful lack of progress and make all taxi and car services wheelchair accessible.”

Koppell pointed to other cities' taxi fleets as an example.

“London has had a wholly accessible taxi fleet for more than 15 years. New York can do no less for our wheelchair bound citizens,” Koppell concluded.

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