The City Council is expected to vote Thursday on whether or not Uber will be allowed to keep "flooding" our streets, and now both Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams have spoken out against the legislation—the latter at a strategically-timed Uber jobs fair in Long Island City.
Last month, Brooklyn Councilmember Stephen Levin introduced legislation that would allow Uber, which claims to add 25,000 new users to its NYC platform each week, to increase its fleet by only 1% between now and April 2016.
"It makes no sense to arbitrarily cap Uber and other for-hire vehicle companies before we study the impact of congestion on the streets of New York," said Stringer. The Comptroller, an early supporter of green borough taxis, argued that "we must make sure that New Yorkers across all boroughs have equal access to the full range of taxi services." Uber has argued vehemently that it currently has a better handle on the outer boroughs than yellow cabs do, but that the proposed cap would negatively impact outer boroughs first.
Stringer added that in lieu of a cap, the Council should instead have an "earnest discussion" about monitoring Uber in other ways—by instating a surcharge on Uber rides to benefit public transit, for example, or by compelling Uber to share its GPS trip data with the city (yellow cabs already do both of these things).
— Erin Durkin (@erinmdurkin) July 21, 2015
The DOT and TLC argue that the cap, which would apply to all for hire vehicles, is necessary in order to conduct an accurate study of the FHV industry's environmental impact (their ranks have jumped 66% since 2011). And yesterday, Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez rallied against Uber at City Hall, with members of the New York Taxiworkers Alliance and the Transport Workers Union Local 100. These groups argue that a cap is necessary to drive down competition between drivers.
Uber counters that de Blasio is acting under pressure from taxi barons. (Bloomberg News reports that de Blasio received over $500,000 in campaign donations in 2013 for his mayoral campaign from the "traditional taxi and limousine industry.") The cap, they argue, will prevent the company from adding 10,000 new drivers to their platform.
Uber has been unrelenting in driving this point home. First came the TV spots, and the meeting of concerned black community leaders at Sylvia's Restaurant in Queens. And today, the company hosted a job fair at Queensbridge Park in Long Island City, that, according to an Uber spokeswoman, drew 2,000 people with promises of "music, food, and outdoor games," not to mention an opportunity to learn what it's like to drive for Uber, if you should be so lucky. Addressing the crowd, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “I support the growth of disruptive technologies.... We also cannot deny the fact that for-hire vehicles filled a major gap in serving the underserved."
Uber luring fans to park w copious amts of free food. Spreads of Caribbean, southern, mideastern, Italian, sandwiches pic.twitter.com/eEx12eZqsP
— Erin Durkin (@erinmdurkin) July 21, 2015
It goes without saying that those 2,000 job fair attendees, not to mention the thousands more expected to show up at six more job fairs scheduled for the next six weeks, will be at least temporarily out of luck if the proposed cap goes into effect. Asked if the timing of the job fair, so close to Thursday's vote, was strategic, an Uber spokeswoman told us that we could probably draw our own conclusions on that one.
In other news, today the Mayor found out that not even the Atlantic Ocean can separate him from his Uber-related headache. Asked during his Vatican visit about the for-hire vehicle cap, de Blasio said, "I think it's clear that as a corporation—as a multi-billion dollar corporation—Uber thinks it can dictate to government. I remind them that the government represents the people and the people's larger interests and that is more important than any one company's needs."
UPDATE: Bertha Lewis of The Black Institute has issued a fiery statement slamming Stringer:
“A thoughtful discussion Comptroller Stringer? Really? 48 hours before a crucial vote to cap the unrestrained entry of thousands of cars onto the City’s streets? Where were your thoughts before the legislation was introduced?"