And yet, when Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday that he would immediately replace the current taxi commissioner, David S. Yassky, if elected, he convulsed an industry that has undergone widespread upheaval in recent years, inspiring a stern response from a coalition of cabbies and a fractious exchange on Twitter between a deputy mayor and a state assemblyman. (Late Thursday, a spokeswoman for Joseph J. Lhota, Mr. de Blasio’s Republican opponent, said that Mr. Lhota also would not keep Mr. Yassky.)
The episode began Thursday morning, when Mr. de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, was asked on WWRL about his vision for the city’s taxis. “I’d start by getting a new chairman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission,” he said, adding, “I want someone who will work with the drivers.” Mr. de Blasio has been a frequent critic of the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow plan for a nearly uniform fleet of yellow cabs and its bid to expand street-hail service outside Manhattan with green livery cabs. His campaign has received over $200,000 in contributions from members of the taxi and limousine industry, many of whom opposed the Bloomberg administration’s policies.
In a statement, Mr. Yassky — who, like many administration officials, is not expected to stay once Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg leaves office — said he had “great respect” for Mr. de Blasio.
But Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, took immediate exception to the candidate’s remarks, calling Mr. Yassky “the most pro-driver chairperson we’ve seen.” She cited last year’s commission-approved increase in cab fares, which went directly toward higher wages for drivers, and wondered if the next administration would instead be at the “beck and call” of the taxi industry, given the campaign contributions.
“It’s definitely worrisome,” Ms. Desai said in a phone interview.
Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor, also defended Mr. Yassky. When Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner, another critic of the city’s taxi initiatives, wrote “Amen!” on Twitter in response to Mr. de Blasio’s comments, Mr. Wolfson replied, “Won’t you be looking for a new job soon?”
Mr. Kellner, who has been accused of sexually harassing a staff member, lost a race last week for a City Council seat on the Upper East Side.
The assemblyman responded that Mr. Wolfson would be out of a job when Mr. Bloomberg’s term ended, “and amen to that!”
Then the exchange turned personal, if it had not already. Mr. Yassky had “passed the vet for commissioner,” the deputy mayor wrote to Mr. Kellner. “You wouldn’t.”
[NY Times Report]