(Corrects headline and first paragraph in story originally published Dec. 14 to reflect that New York City won’t buy the taxis; adds vehicle purchasers in seventh paragraph.)
Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city would go ahead with a deal with Nissan Motor Co. to supply a new fleet of taxi cabs even as Comptroller John Liu vowed to block it.
Liu, a Democrat who may run for mayor next year, rejected a contract for the so-called Taxi of Tomorrow because it’s not wheelchair accessible. The agreement with Nissan, Japan’s second-biggest carmaker, may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said today.
“We can go ahead and do it anyways, which we will,” Bloomberg said today on his weekly show on WOR radio.
In June, a federal appeals court ruled that the city’s taxi regulations didn’t violate the ADA. People who use wheelchairs sued the city because it didn’t require more taxi owners to use wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The court didn’t rule on the city’s new cabs.
“This contract ignores the civil rights of New Yorkers who use wheelchairs,” Liu said at a news conference, where he was joined by a dozen people seated in them. “Serious issues remain as to whether the Taxi of Tomorrow violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Last year Nissan won a contract valued at $1 billion over 10 years to supply the minivans, which feature sliding doors, more luggage space and airbags in the back. The taxis are scheduled to arrive in the fourth quarter of next year.
New York City negotiated the contract on behalf of taxi medallion owners and taxi drivers that own their own vehicles. They will purchase the taxis, said Allan Fromberg, a spokesman with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
“Nissan understands and respects the concerns presented by disability advocates, which is why the NV200 Taxi is being designed so that it can be modified for wheelchair users,” David Reuter, a spokesman for Yokohama-based Nissan, said in in an e-mailed statement. Other planned features include a lower step-in height and grab bars.
About 230 of New York’s 13,000 yellow cabs are currently wheelchair accessible, meaning users have less than a one in 50 chance of finding an appropriate taxi, Liu said.
“In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, mandating a taxi that is not wheelchair accessible raises a grave risk that people who use wheelchairs will not be able to evacuate,” the comptroller said
London’s taxis are all accessible, said city council member Oliver Koppel, who joined Liu at the news conference.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission this year began a program that allows people who use wheelchairs to call the city and get picked up by an accessible taxi. Liu called that a “Band-Aid” approach that costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
The comptroller acknowledged that the city charter allows the mayor to override objections to contracts. Still, Liu pointed out that over the last three years he has rejected hundreds of contracts and the mayor hasn’t overridden them despite threats to do so.
“He has never carried out his threats, and I hope he doesn’t carry out this threat because it will be the wrong thing to do,” Liu said. “This office will use every available option, every available tool at our disposal to stop this so-called Taxi of Tomorrow.”
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
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