After years of waiting, Bronx councilman buckled under pressure
Reposted from a story in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 4:05 AM.
Councilman Oliver Koppell wasted everyone’s time by yanking his taxicab wheelchair access bill.
Two and a half years ago, Bronx City Councilman Oliver Koppell introduced a bill aimed at providing full taxi service to New Yorkers who use wheelchairs.
With robust support from advocates for people with disabilities, Koppell stood up to the powerful yellow-taxi industry by calling for a phase-in of cabs capable of transporting wheelchairs. He rounded up 37 co-sponsors, seeming to ensure passage with a veto-proof majority.
But then Speaker Christine Quinn bottled up the legislation, blocking a vote that would have shown whether all those co-sponsors truly had the courage of their convictions.
Finally, showing unusual spine, Koppell invoked a rarely used sponsor’s privilege that forced Quinn to convene a committee hearing and a vote. Then, Koppell folded under Quinn’s pressure like a cheap suit hours before his long-sought vote. After all those months and years of standing as a champion of people with disabilities, he announced that his legislation was riddled with bad ideas that needed amendments.
Those were duly supplied by the taxi industry and got Quinn’s full support. Key among the terms: The Taxi and Limousine Commission would waive the accessibility requirement if the cost of operating wheelchair cabs was more than 5% higher than the expense of regular taxis.
Since accessible cars are more expensive than standard automobiles, it was all but certain that Koppell had agreed to water his mandate down to meaninglessness. The bill’s backers were properly outraged at his quavering betrayal.
“The Council’s new bill put a price tag on civil rights, which no one should accept,” a group called Taxis for All Campaign said in a statement.
The organization added that Koppell and Quinn rejected “a way of mitigating the cost of accessible taxis so that higher costs to taxi purchasers would be offset — a reasonable proposal that has the support of the taxi industry.”
So Koppell killed his own legislation, asserting that he recognized at the last moment how badly he had drawn the bill all along.
Thus, he cops to brainlessness as a lesser offense than spinelessness while relegating New Yorkers in wheelchairs to raising their hands at curbside in futile hope of encountering any of the city’s scant 231 accessible taxis (out of 13,237) at a time when an empty one happens by. They’d sooner find a steadfast ally on the Council