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Legislation to allow livery cabs to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and increase the number of accessible medallions has been stalled.
The legislation was passed in June but Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will not sign the bill until several issues have been resolved, including wheelchair accessibility.
Talks fell apart in a December 7th meeting where no deal was reached. According to the New York Daily News, Cuomo wants all of the new medallions – now increased to 2,000 – to be wheelchair accessible before signing the bill.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been pushing for approval of the bill since announcing the proposal in his State of the City address in January. He expressed disappointment over its stagnation.
Edith Prentiss, chair of the Taxis For All Campaign released a statement saying, “Our understanding is that the current version of the legislation would add 15,000 non-accessible street-hail taxis, along with 2,000 accessible street-hail taxis. The result would be a completely new system that retains the unfair, illegal discrimination that wheelchair users face every day. Only one in 8.5 of street hail vehicles would be accessible. Under this plan, whether you're in Midtown Manhattan or Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, taxi after taxi would pass you by if you’re in a wheelchair.”
“Governor Cuomo must not miss this historic opportunity to make sure wheelchair users finally can get around in our city's taxis and liveries. He must stand up to those – whether in the Capitol or in City Hall – who do not believe in equal treatment for all,” Prentiss added.
Activists are awaiting a court decision from U.S. District Court Judge George B. Daniels in a class action discrimination lawsuit calling on the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to make all new cabs accessible. That decision is expected by late December.
The U.S. Department of Justice issued a Statement of Interest in favor of the plaintiffs. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin has also weighed in, elevating the debate to a national issue by holding a transit accessibility hearing November 17th.
“The current situation in New York City with regard to taxicab accessibility is a good illustration of the barriers and outdated attitudes that people with mobility disabilities continue to face,” Harkin said.
“I am concerned that if we allow people with disabilities to continue to be treated like second-class citizens when it comes to transportation access, we will not achieve the goals of the [Americans with Disabilities Act] and we will not open the doors to employment to everyone who can work,” he added.
The TLC has released a Request for Proposals for an accessible taxi dispatch service and plans to have the program running by March 2012. A public hearing has been scheduled for December 15th.
This article was published in the January 2012 issue of Able News.