Hey, taxi! Marty hails Turkish cab maker — and the jobs it will bring

Hey, taxi! Marty hails Turkish cab maker — and the jobs it will bring
Photo by Tom Callan

By Gary Buiso

Now that’s how you hail a cab.

Borough officials spent Sunday morning cheering Turkish automaker Karsan, a politically connected company promising hundreds of Brooklyn jobs if its design is chosen as the city’s next yellow cab.

“I hope that city officials will seriously consider taking a ride with Karsan — we owe it to everyone in the city that seeks gainful employment,” said Borough President Markowitz who organized the automotive love fest at Borough Hall.

Karsan, along with American icon Ford and Japanese automaker Nissan North America are the three companies going bumper-to-bumper in the city’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition, which seeks to replace the city’s current taxi fleet with a safer and more environmentally friendly model.

But only Karsan’s bid, as this newspaper first reported in February, brings the possibility of jobs at an auto plant in Sunset Park — the city’s first since the Studebaker factory in Harlem was sold off in the 1930s for use as a Borden dairy plant.

The assembly work would be done in partnership with the Axis Group, which already operates a non-manufacturing facility for imported cars at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal at 39th Street and the waterfront.

“We’ll be bringing the engines from [Chrysler] Michigan, the chassis from Turkey and the rest of the parts would be heavily American,” said Jay Kriegel, a Karsan advisor.

Up to 300 new jobs will be created initially, with more expected based on additional orders, he added.

Karsan USA’s president is William Wachtel, one of the founding partners of the powerful law and lobbying firm Wachtel & Masyr, whose client list includes Forest City Ratner and IKEA.

Kriegel is also a longtime city insider, currently a senior adviser to the Related Companies, which is developing land in East New York that could be home to another borough first: Walmart.

But he said politics have not fueled the effusive support Karsan is receiving from local pols.

“That has nothing to do with anything,” Kriegel said. “This is about a decision on the merits.”

The Taxi and Limousine Commission, which is evaluating the proposals, has been tight-lipped except to say that the first new cabs could hit the road in 2013, though it will take years to replace the entire fleet of 13,237.

A road-ready model of the Karsan V1 stood idle as its praises were sung, its bulky lines soaking up the morning sun. A cut-out section of the cab displayed its spacious interior, and easily accommodated Markowitz and other pols who piled in to pose for photographers.

The cab has been a hit with its would-be passengers, selected first by 65-1/2 percent of those who took an online passenger survey.

It’s also won the the backing of the disabled community, as the cabs are the only one of the trio that are completely wheelchair accessible off the assembly line.

“It’s amazing — and I’ll be able to go wherever I want,” said Elizabeth Ramos, an East New York resident who suffers from scoliosis and has been confined to a wheelchair for the last seven years. “It’s a dream come true.”

Could this be the taxicab of the future? Borough President Markowitz certainly hopes so, as its manufacturer has promised to open a factory in Brooklyn.
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