Nissan, the Cathie Black of taxis
May 10, 2011 | 8074 views | 0 0 comments | 115 115 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In selecting Nissan as the winner of its Taxi of Tomorrow contest, instead of a Turkish car maker proposing a wheelchair-accessible cab made at an auto plant in Brooklyn, the city demonstrated a gross lack of respect for the disabled and threw hundreds of good-paying jobs out the window.

The baffling choice drew ready comparisons to the Bloomberg Administration's last bone-headed decision; as one disgruntled online commenter observed, Nissan's proposal represented “the Cathie Black of taxis.”

Really, what was the city thinking?

Selecting Turkey's Karsan - one of three finalists, along with Nissan and Ford, in a design competition for a new model to replace the city's aging cab fleet - should have been a no-brainer.

The company's Karsan V1 is spacious and sleek, with a nice exterior design and an elegant glass sunroof that would have put our outdated Crown Victoria cabs to shame. By any objective standard, it was more iconic than Nissan's winning NV200, a far less sexy mini-van.

Karsan committed to building the cars in a Brooklyn auto plant that would have generated hundreds of solid union jobs. Nissan plans to build its vans, which will replace the city's entire fleet in coming years, at a cost of $1 billion, elsewhere in the country.

And most importantly, the Karsan taxis were wheelchair accessible. Amazingly, accessibility for the disabled is not a standard feature in the Nissan NV200.

This is not a minor point. Currently, less than 300 of the 13,000-plus cabs on the road are accessible for disabled riders. That's an embarrassment. The city had an opportunity to rectify this and chose not to.

So now we'll get an amenities-laden mini-van with power outlets and other fancy features designed for on-the-go business people, not the needs of the disabled. Choosing luxury and aesthetics over basic rights for the disadvantaged was morally wrong and reprehensible.

But who are we kidding? Mayor Michael Bloomberg does this all the time.

In defending the decision Bloomberg explained that Nissan's track record was better than Karsan's, though the Turkish company is an established car maker in markets across Europe. And he scoffed at the possibility of an auto plant opening in Brooklyn in the near future.

“I don't think between now and two years from now we could site a new school, much less a new industrial plant,” Bloomberg said at a news conference, in a disturbing comment that seriously calls into question whether he has any motivation left to work hard on the job. (He might as well have said: I don't plan to try hard to get anything done in my remaining years in office.)

We support the efforts of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and other officials who are calling for an investigation into possible conflicts of interest in the request for proposals process that led to Nissan's selection.

A separate inquiry into whether or not the choice violated the Americans With Disabilities Act should also be pursued. If there's one thing the Black debacle taught us, it's that the administration's careless, insensitive decisions can be reversed.

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