De Blasio's suspicious start-stop on green cabs

Outer borough taxi Outer borough taxi Photo Credit: (Kristen Artz/NYC Mayor's Office)

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After a remarkably successful rollout of the city's green metered taxis, a doubling of the program for the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan will bedelayed for reasons that seem awfully suspicious.

Here are the facts.

The first 6,000 licenses were handed out late last year before Michael Bloomberg left the mayor's office.

Residents in neighborhoods like Harlem, Long Island City, downtown Brooklyn and Kingsbridge were jubilant.

For the first time in recent memory, they could hoist an arm and legally hail a cab just like the 1 percent of Wall Street, the harried commuters around Penn Station and the tourists in Times Square.

The second wave of 6,000 licenses was scheduled to start on June 12, and the expansion might have smoothed out the citywide taxi network by prompting green cabs to cruise some less-traveled parts of the outer boroughs.

But at a City Council hearing late last week, things took a strange turn. Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi told council members the second wave of licenses would be delayed pending "stakeholder engagement."

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Who knows what that means. But it's a fact that some of Mayor Bill de Blasio's stakeholders are yellow-cab owners who ponied up more than $350,000 in contributions to help get him elected last year. They would like to see the green borough taxis hit the gas and never come back.

So was this just de Blasio paying the yellows for his ride to the mayor's office?

As the weekend began, a new narrative emerged. The TLC was simply delaying the licensing expansion for a couple of months to figure out the best way to make green cabs accessible to disabled people, the administration said.

Maybe that's true. But the administration's timing on a big push for disabled customers seems a little last-minute.

The mayor's proposal for a 30-cent surcharge on all taxi rides to pay for more wheelchair-accessible cabs makes a certain practical sense. But it's a terrible idea to hamper the long-charted growth of the green-taxi industry in the name of accessibility. Where exactly is de Blasio going?

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