Quinn promises hearing on accessible taxis


City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has agreed to move forward on Councilman Oliver Koppell’s bill to require wheelchair accessibility in any new city taxis.

After Mr. Koppell sent her a letter formally invoking sponsor’s privilege to force a vote in the transportation committee, she has agreed to hold hearings on the matter.

“Oliver sent a letter requesting a hearing and we will be scheduling that hearing within the rules and the confines of what the council requires,” she said when asked about the issue at a press conference at which she endorsed Community Board 8 member Andrew Cohen for City Council. “We don’t have a date yet. The taxi issue as it relates to hybrids and disabled folks and other issues is very complicated at the moment as it relates to some lawsuits, as it relates to attempts to get medallion sales, as it relates to the five-borough taxi plan, so there will absolutely be a hearing. We don’t have a date set, but there’s also a lot of other issues we’re trying to look at comprehensively to figure out what to do as it relates to all of them.”

As chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services, Mr. Koppell sponsored the accessibility bill in 2010. Though it has 35 co-sponsors — a veto-proof majority — it has not been brought out of the transportation committee.

Ms. Quinn’s promise comes as the city is on the verge of a deal with Nissan for new yellow cabs.

In 2011, the Taxi and Limousine Commission chose a Nissan NV 200 van for a 10-year exclusive contract to produce new taxis for the city. The model beat out a design by Turkish company Karsan, which is wheelchair accessible.

Mr. Bloomberg has said accessible cabs make for a rougher ride and would be uncomfortable for the average person. He also said he doesn’t think wheelchair users should be hailing cabs at all. City Comptroller John Liu recently blocked the contract and its current status is unclear.

If for some reason Mr. Koppell’s legislation still doesn’t move out of the committee, he could still force a full vote on the City Council floor as long as six fellow councilmembers support his motion for a vote.

 “I’m delighted that they’re going to have a hearing,” Mr. Koppell said.

He noted that he had not yet heard from Ms. Quinn and had already been planning to call her to follow up on the letter.

“I think I will call her and discuss it with her,” he said.

He also speculated that his conspicuous absence from the endorsement gathering — held within his current district at the Luis Dale Diner in Kingsbridge — was likely because he was thought to have an “adversarial” relationship with Ms. Quinn.