Political Arena

Koppell takes on Quinn



Councilman Oliver Koppell is challenging Speaker Christine Quinn on the accessibility of taxis in the city. For the first time in his 12 years in the council, Mr. Koppell last week invoked what is known as the sponsor’s privilege to force action on his bill requiring any new taxis to be wheelchair accessible. 

The bill has been sitting around since 2010 and and Mr. Koppell said it was time to take action.

The sponsor’s privilege is hardly ever used and it means the transportation committee must discuss and vote on the bill within 60 days. Mr. Koppell’s decision to force a vote on the bill 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.

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.

Mr. Koppell’s move will force the transportation committee to act on the bill. If it doesn’t move out of the committee, Mr. Koppell could still force a full vote on the City Council floor as long as six fellow councilmembers support his motion for a vote. 

“Whether those people are willing to defy the speaker, I don’t know,” Mr. Koppell said.

 None of these moves would be necessary if Ms. Quinn were to bring the legislation to the floor herself. 

“The best thing would be if she supports my bill,” Mr. Koppell said of Ms. Quinn. “It doesn’t have to have my name on it.”

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