New York City puts brakes on taxi expansion plan

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NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has announced that is putting the brakes on the growth of the new green taxi service that was commissioned to expand street-hail service to the boroughs outside of Manhattan.

The outer-borough taxis debuted a year ago, and more than 5,000 patrol parts of the city that were rarely well-served by the traditional yellow cabs. The city had been authorized to issue an additional 6,000 green cab permits next month, but the mayor's taxi commissioner indicated late Thursday that they would be delayed.

The commissioner, Meera Joshi, told a City Council hearing that the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which oversees the fleet, wants to further study the program before allowing the expansion.

"Where we are right now is we've begun stakeholder engagement, which is a process where we need to speak to all of our stakeholders, including passengers, which is a group we don't hear enough from, to get a good understanding of how the program has worked thus far," Joshi told councilmembers.

But on Friday, the taxi commission clarified that the delay would be slight and that the permits should go out by summer's end.

On its surface, any opposition to the green taxis does not mesh with de Blasio's image; the mayor hails from Brooklyn and has long said he wants to more equally distribute city services between the outer boroughs and Manhattan.

But the Democratic mayor also received significant campaign contributions last year from the yellow cab industry, which feels its business is threatened by the rise of the green cabs, which serve northern Manhattan as well as all of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. The yellow cab's leaders donated more than $300,000 to de Blasio's underdog campaign in 2013.

Moreover, de Blasio opposed the green cabs in his previous role as public advocate, the city's official watchdog, and as a candidate pledged to immediately dismiss the taxi commissioner appointed by his predecessor, ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Some have questioned whether de Blasio feels beholden to the yellow taxi industry, a charge the mayor's office denies.

City officials say the administration's hesitancy on the expansion is partially rooted in concern that the green taxis don't meet advocates' demands for better accessibility for the disabled. The de Blasio administration has proposed a 30-cent surcharge on all taxi fares to help pay for more wheelchair-accessible cabs.

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