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East Hampton supervisor writes Cuomo about livery service rules

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell has written Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asking him to consider including certain local requirements in any proposed legislation for state regulation of the livery service industry, including Uber.

Those requirements should include giving town officials the right to limit the vehicles from parking on certain public streets in East Hampton, “to prevent these vehicles for hire from monopolizing parking in our business districts, hamlet centers, and transportation hubs,” Cantwell wrote.

Also in the letter, dated March 21 and released to the media Tuesday, Cantwell asks for the establishment of a vehicle-for hire rate system “to prevent price gouging and the charging of unreasonable fares.”

In addition Cantwell wants “an absolute prohibition” on drivers “sleeping in said vehicles.”

Cantwell also addresses the current local law that allows town officials to regulate only vehicle-for-hire trips that involve travel that begins and ends within East Hampton Town.

“The Town would like the ability to regulate all vehicle-for-hire trips that begin within the Town, regardless of the final destination,” Cantwell said. “This would prevent a significant number of unlicensed vehicle-for-hire operators from operating under the cover that they are only taking fares going outside the municipality.”

In closing the letter, Cantwell states, “Whereas statewide pre-emption legislation of livery services licensing would be a step backward for our community, the above listed reforms would bolster our efforts to provide necessary and vital public transportation services to our constituents in a safe, responsible, and reliable manner.”

Cuomo has indicated support of the state regulation but no amendment has been formally introduced. A spokesman for Cuomo could not be reached for comment.

Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang said in an emailed statement: “Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell has acted to protect taxi interests at the expense of consumers and hardworking drivers.”

Uber, an international app-based taxi hailing company, stopped operating in East Hampton after Memorial Day weekend last year when the town passed a law requiring taxis to have a business address in town.

Anfang pointed to the benefits services such as Uber have had on reducing drunken driving incidents, particularly in Suffolk County which she said had the most alcohol-related accidents anywhere in New York State between 2010 and 2012.

But East Hampton Police Chief Michael D. Sarlo said in an interview Monday that, while local officials support all efforts to prevent drunken driving, he said there has only been one more drunken driving arrest since Uber left town. He said there were 186 of those arrests in 2014 and 187 in 2015.

Sarlo added, “DWI arrests have been trending down in Suffolk County over the last several years.”

In an interview, Cantwell said that those who want to hire a ride have a lot of options.

“We have over 250 licensed operators without Uber,” Cantwell said. “This is not about Uber as much as it’s about trying to provide for an orderly system of vehicles for hire in an area like Montauk.”

Another East End town – Southampton – is holding a public hearing Tuesday at 6 p.m. at town hall on proposed legislation that calls for Uber, limousine and livery cabs to meet the same licensing requirements as local taxis, including registering with the town, undergoing fingerprinting and background checks.

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