City hails agreement on outer borough livery hail plan

December 24, 2011 Heather Chin
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Residents of Brooklyn and the other outer boroughs will soon beable to hail livery cars legally, thanks to an agreement by NewYork State legislators on Tuesday, December 20, that will alsoallow the city to sell 2,000 new yellow cab medallions expresslyfor wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Governor Andrew Cuomo welcomed the agreement after months ofdebate over how to extend the original bill passed in June toaddress the needs of individuals with disabilities – both withyellow cabs and livery cabs.

The plan will authorize up to 18,000 new hail-accessibleinter-borough livery licenses, 20 percent of which must be fordisability-accessible vehicles, while also allowing the city tosell 2,000 new yellow cab medallions to these newly accessiblevehicles. Grants of up to $15,000 will be provided either toretrofit existing vehicles or to purchase new vehicles that meetthat standard. Driver training to secure wheelchairs properly willalso be provided.

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Once approved and amended in the next legislative session, theTaxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) will be required to prepare aDisabled Accessibility Plan in consultation with disability rightsgroups and other stakeholders. That plan will then be subject topublic comment, City Council review and approval by the stateDepartment of Transportation.

The news had elected officials ready to hail a cab and theagreement.

It is a huge victory for all New Yorkers who have ever soughtto hail a cab outside of Manhattan and in northern Manhattan,exclaimed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who added that the agreementwould also generate $1 billion in revenue for the city.

A great deal of effort went into improving the originallegislation and in many respects that goal has been accomplished,said State Senator Marty Golden. I am pleased that we can moveforward on a signed bill [and] the agreed-upon enhancements will bemade in January.

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz of Sunset Park, South Park Slope andRed Hook agreed, lauding the bill’s ability to provide jobs tolivery cab drivers while also increasing access for those withdisabilities and to residents who live and work outside ofManhattan.

Addressing the problem of limited mobility is a personal crusadefor Jean Ryan, a Bay Ridge-based disability rights activist, who isa member of the Taxis For All campaign. Ryan said she is thrilledabout the yellow cab deal and the livery cab one too because thereare only 23 accessible cars out of 35,000 [right now] and we don’teven know where they are.

Another next step, Ryan said, is to get the Taxi of Tomorrowfleet, approved by the city in May, to be disability-accessible aswell. A lawsuit that her group filed against the TLC will be ruledon by the end of the year.

There are so many people with disabilities who really needrides – everybody’s mother, grandmother, uncle, child – and if youtalk to people, you’ll hear that they are stuck in their houses,said Ryan. We’re delighted that some will be accessible, but wewish that more – actually all – would be because everywheelchair-accessible cab and car service vehicle [can be riddenby] anyone. So this is a huge step forward. We hope it’s not theonly step forward.

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