The head of Nassau’s Taxi & Limousine Commission recommended Monday that the county opt out of a state law legalizing ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, arguing for local regulation of the industry.
In a report to County Executive Edward Mangano, TLC Commissioner Gregory May said Nassau shouldn’t totally ban ride-sharing. Instead, he suggested, it should subject the services to the same requirements — including driver fingerprinting and drug testing — and licensing fees as traditional for-hire vehicles by classifying them as such.
The county could collect nearly $1 million in annual revenue from ride-sharing registrations while retaining control of criminal background checks, May said.
“It is just and proper that the county be able to regulate those transportation options to ensure the public’s safety,” May wrote, echoing the concerns of his advisory board, which includes local taxi company executives that have contributed to Mangano’s campaigns.
Uber, which notes that counties do not have the ability under the state law to pass their own ride-sharing regulations, said Monday that if county leaders adopt May’s recommendation, the company would end all service in Nassau. Uber and Lyft are currently available in the county, although trips either must originate or end in New York City.
“The Nassau County TLC’s recommendation would protect the status quo and flies in the face of New Yorkers’ overwhelming demand for ride-sharing,” said Adrian Durbin, Lyft spokesman.
Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang said it would be “troubling if Nassau County leaders ignored the will of their constituents to protect their taxi industry donors.” She cited widespread support for ride-sharing and said nearly 18,000 county residents have applied to work as drivers.
The statewide authorization, which begins June 29, gives the state Department of Motor Vehicles oversight over ride-sharing outside New York City, and provides no revenue to municipalities, including counties.
Mangano, a Republican, and the GOP-controlled county legislature must decide whether to act on May’s recommendation and pass a local opt-out law. Counties can opt out at any time, and it is unlikely that such a move would become final before the state law takes effect.
Legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said Monday that, before making a decision, she was awaiting the fate of several ride-sharing bills pending in Albany during the final days of the session.
One sponsored by Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) would bar level one sex offenders, the lowest tier, from driving for ride-sharing services, and appeared headed for full approval. Current law allows them to drive seven years after a conviction or completion of a prison sentence.
“Much remains unsettled,” Gonsalves said.
Protests by taxi drivers and industry executives began before the county legislature’s meeting, when more than 60 cabs adorned with billboards reading “Opt Out — Protect the Riding Public” circled county offices and honked their horns.
Taxi companies, their owners and other businesses they control have contributed more than $200,000 to Mangano and county legislators of both parties during the past decade.
“When someone is assaulted, the blood will be on the hands of the 19 members of the county legislature,” said Larry Blessinger, who runs several taxi and limousine companies in Nassau and serves as president of the Nassau & Suffolk Taxi Owners Association and chairman of the TLC’s advisory board.
Blessinger added that it’s “not out of the question” that taxi drivers would strike if ride-sharing is allowed.
Uber and Lyft officials said their drivers’ vehicles undergo safety inspections and drivers must submit to detailed criminal background checks.
Uber on Monday also launched a six-figure TV and radio ad buy urging the county not to opt out.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has embraced ride-sharing technology.
But Suffolk County lawmakers and victims’ advocates have asked Bellone to expedite a county bill by Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) to block the services by allowing a vote Tuesday. Bellone is reviewing the bill, said county spokesman Jason Elan.
Also at Monday’s Nassau Legislature meeting, Uniondale residents demanded that lawmakers call for a vote a $2 million streetscaping project that has been stalled for nearly two years because of a partisan gridlock over borrowing.
While funding to replace deteriorating sidewalks on Uniondale Avenue has been approved, the GOP majority has declined to move forward on the work because Democrats have blocked other projects, citing the need for greater contract oversight.
“I blame the entire legislature because it should have never come to this,” said Pearl Jacobs, president of the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association.
With David M. Schwartz