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LI Limousine Association targets Uber, Lyft, others for tighter NY rules

The association asks state leaders to rewrite a 2017 law to force Uber, Lyft and others to comply with rules, including those on insurance, local taxes and driver registration.  

Penny Casey, president of Long Island Limousine Association,

Penny Casey, president of Long Island Limousine Association, at her business T&J Limousine and Car Service in Lindenhurst on Friday. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Last year's state law freeing app-hailing services like Uber from local regulations should be tightened because a just-enacted New York City moratorium on the services could lure more of the drivers to Long Island, an association of traditional-taxicab owners said on Thursday.

The Long Island Limousine Association is calling on state leaders to rewrite the Transportation Network Company Act of 2017 to force Uber, Lyft and others to comply with local rules that traditional cabbies must obey, including those on insurance, local taxes and driver registration. The 2017 law allows New York City to regulate services like Uber. But on Long Island or everywhere else in the state, the services' drivers must only register with one of the app-hailing companies.

“We’re hoping that it's going to be rewritten,” said Penny Casey, president of the association, which represents almost 100 owners, from the New York City border to Montauk. "What's going to happen is, all these Uber drivers, Lyft drivers, who will not be able to work in Manhattan, are going to be seeking to come out to Nassau and Suffolk, which we are inundated to begin with."

The counties’ top taxi regulators, Gregory May of Nassau and James Andrews of Suffolk, have also predicted that the moratorium, the nation’s first for a major municipality, could bring more app-hailing drivers to Long Island.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, enacted the city moratorium on Wednesday. The moratorium caps new licenses for 12 months during a study of the app-hailing services' effect on traffic congestion and the traditional-cab industry. The new law also mandates minimum driver pay, expected to be about $17 an hour, and reduces penalties for improper street hails. 

“It's going to be horrendous out here,” Casey said of more app-hailing drivers on the Island. “Not just here, even Westchester.”

A ride from a service like Uber or Lyft costs 4 percent extra for state taxes and an additional 2.5 percent for a workers’ compensation fund, according to both Campbell Matthews, a spokeswoman for Lyft, and her Uber counterpart, Danielle Filson.

Filson said the company supports a bill by State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) to use fees from Uber and other services to help pay for local transit.

Casey, who owns T&J Limousine and Car Service in Lindenhurst, said fees include workers' compensation of $14.16 for every $100 of gross pay, taxes of 8.625 percent, as well as $300 per base location and $300 per vehicle.

She estimates losses of about 10 percent because of ride-hail apps.

Last year, the Nassau & Suffolk Taxi Owners Association filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law on U.S. constitutional grounds, claiming the state is violating the guarantee of equal protection and creating "a two-tiered system" that is "arbitrary." The suit is pending, according to online court records.

Asked about rewriting the law, Matthews emailed that “Ride-sharing is a fundamentally different business model than taxis," and Filson emailed: "The state’s ride sharing law is a product of a thorough, deliberative process that unfolded over several years and the result is a service that hundreds of thousands of Long Island residents enjoy regularly."

Neither company believes there will be a meaningful increase on the Island as a result of the city cap, representatives have said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's transportation spokesman, Peter Ajemian, emailed: “The state meets regularly with a variety of groups on a range of topics, and we’d be happy to meet with stakeholders on this issue.” Ajemian did not say whether Cuomo's team has a position on the association's demand.

Mike Wyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), said Heastie would need to talk to his members and consider the ramifications of rewriting the 2017 law.

Robert Caroppoli, spokesman for State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), did not comment.

Charles Gandolfo, owner of Dynasty Limousines in Babylon and an association board member, said although he expects more Uber and Lyft drivers on Long Island, “they’re going to make less money than they're making now.”

“It’s going to hurt their own people,” Gandolfo said Thursday, “drivers who are already established in Nassau and Suffolk.”

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