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Uber and Southampton meet to find way for Uber to operate in town

Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is proposing legislation

Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is proposing legislation in March 2016 that calls for Uber, limousine and livery cabs to meet the same licensing requirements as local taxis. This photo is from a meeting in Hampton Bays on Oct. 21, 2013. Credit: John Roca

Southampton and Uber officials are in talks to determine whether there is any way the international app-based taxi hailing company can continue to operate in town.

Councilman Stan Glinka is proposing 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, and paying fees to allow them to operate.

Under Uber’s business model, in which its drivers are independent contractors, the drivers would be responsible for any fees, but Glinka has said it is only fair that all of the companies operate on the same playing field.

A public hearing on the amendment to the taxi law remains scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

If the amendment is adopted, Southampton would become the second East End town to put in place measures to regulate Uber operations locally. Last year Uber ceased operations in East Hampton Town after taxi law changes were adopted there that Uber officials said its drivers could not meet.

Glinka said in an interview Friday that he and Town Attorney James Burke met in Burke’s office for about an hour with Josh Gold, a member of Uber’s policy team, and that they had a “positive conversation.”

“We’re still communicating and there are still some things we’re talking about,” Glinka said. “The legislation has prompted a conversation now.”

He said he was impressed that a “major corporation of that size would come and talk to a municipality.”

Glinka said that both sides have a better understanding of each other’s point of view but he would not say whether he would consider rescinding his proposal or altering it.

Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang has called the proposal an attempt to protect local cabs from competition.

When asked to comment on the Friday meeting, she said in an emailed statement: “We appreciate being able to meet with Councilman Glinka and other town officials.”

Support for Uber was ramped up last week when Mothers Against Drunk Driving announced its objection to the proposal and Uber sent email blasts to its Southampton customers urging them to send letters to Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s office opposing the proposed legislation.

“We’ve gotten about 85 emails,” Schneiderman’s administrative assistant, Jacqueline O’Neill, said Friday.

Under existing law, taxi companies, drivers and cabs must register with the town annually. The fees are $750 for owners to obtain a town license, $150 for each vehicle and $100 per driver. Drivers with only one cab, as is the case with Uber drivers who work for the company but drive their own cars, would pay a flat annual fee of $1,000.

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