2/13/17 The flailing yellow-cab industry appears to be trying to blackmail the city into bailing it out — threatening to yank its wheelchair-accessible cabs off the street.
David Beier, president of the Committee for Taxi Safety, which represents 20 percent of the city’s yellow-taxi medallion agents, told The Post that medallion owners are near the breaking point.
He claims the industry’s financing is in jeopardy because a major medallion lender was taken over by state authorities last week. And owners gripe that app-based competitors, such as Uber and Lyft, are getting a free ride regarding regulations.
“Without the necessary financing in place, there may be no choice but to shut down the entire accessible-taxi program within months,” Beier said, referring to the city’s more than 1,400 specially equipped cabs.
Hundreds of standard cabs could follow suit because of the plummeting values in the taxi-medallion market, industry advocates said.
Beier’s group and others are demanding that the city either bail them out or start coming down hard on regulating the app-based services — or do both.
The threats aim to ramp up the pressure on Mayor de Blasio, who has called on the industry to start innovating instead of complaining about competition.
Under the terms of a settlement of a 2013 federal lawsuit by advocates for the disabled, 50 percent of the city’s taxi fleet must be wheelchair-accessible by 2020.
The city and the taxi-fleet owners, which operate about 60 percent of the 1,497 accessible yellow cabs, are both required to meet the mandate. The entire yellow-taxi fleet consists of 13,587 medallion vehicles.
Taxi advocates grumble that the special vehicles are costly to maintain. City officials have shot back that there are government subsidies available to cover much of the extra costs.
Dustin Jones, of United for Equal Access New York, said Hizzoner will ultimately be held responsible by disabled riders if the special vehicles disappear.
“If Mayor de Blasio lets the accessible-taxi program die, he shouldn’t expect New Yorkers with disabilities to vote for him this year,” he said.
But de Blasio has indicated he has no interest in either bailing out the taxis or subjecting the app-based cab companies to more regulation.
When a yellow-cab driver called in to his weekly WYNC radio show Feb. 3 asking about a possible bailout, de Blasio said he’d rather leave it up to the market.
“I think you will see some leveling off [of the market] over time, and that could strengthen the medallion values again, but I am not ready to commit to reversing course,” de Blasio said.
“I also think there were free-market dynamics that created an opening for Lyft, Uber and others, and the taxi industry has to learn from that . . . in every way possible.”
Allan Fromberg, spokesman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said, “Frankly, it is surprising to me that, with New York City being the only city in the nation that licenses and regulates app services like Uber and Lyft just as it does for all other for-hire service providers, this group prefers to cloak its beef with competitors in a speculative ‘prediction’ that accessible taxi service will disappear within a matter of months.”
City Hall spokesman Austin Finan echoed that sentiment Monday in a statement to The Post.
“Yellow cabs are an iconic part of New York City, but it’s on their industry to adapt and keep pace in the vibrant and growing for-hire market,’’ he said.
Beier said the taxi industry is “committed to providing accessible service, but the city’s failure to create a level playing field with Uber could make that impossible.
“Although the TLC claims Uber is regulated just like the taxi industry, the reality is that Uber has an unfair advantage because it is not required to utilize accessible vehicles.”