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Uber drivers face stricter taxi regulations in Southampton

Bryan DaParma, the owner of Hometown Taxi Inc.

Bryan DaParma, the owner of Hometown Taxi Inc. of Southampton, speaks during a public hearing in support of proposed legislation to regulate Uber cab services during a Southampton Town board meeting in Southampton, March 22, 2016. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Uber no longer operates in East Hampton but continues to drive the conversation there and in Southampton, where officials decided to continue a public hearing last night on a controversial proposal that would require the company to fulfill the same licensing requirements as local taxis.

Councilman Stan Glinka has proposed an amendment to local taxi law that includes mandatory annual registration with the town, payment of annual fees and fingerprinting and background checks for drivers of the app-based ride hailing service, as well as for limousine and livery drivers.

Some Uber operators said at the hearing that they support the town’s plans.

“I’m OK with all those things,” David Baz said of the proposals in the legislation.

Baz, who told board members that he rents a place in Southampton and operates a livery car, said he thinks priority for licensing should be given to local residents to prevent too many cars from operating.

Fees would be $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, pay a flat annual fee of $1,000.

Glinka has said he wants all the companies to operate “on the same playing field.” After comments from Baz and other drivers, he said he wants to wait before taking further action on the proposal until he completes discussions with Uber representatives.

The hearing will continue on April 12. If the amendment is adopted, Southampton would be the second East End town to pass measures to locally regulate Uber, which is based in Manhattan.

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

Last year, Uber halted operations in East Hampton after officials implemented changes to the town’s taxi law that Uber officials said its drivers could not meet. An address in town is required for local licensing.

Uber driver and limousine company owner Gian Guresci told the Southampton board that he supports the proposed legislation so that everyone is treated equally.

In an interview before the meeting, Guresci said he rents a house in Southampton in the summer with other Uber drivers so they are “operating properly.” He added that he leases an office in East Hampton with three other Uber drivers so they can operate in the town.

East Hampton 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 in a letter dated March 21.

Cuomo has expressed support for the state acting as a regulatory agency, but related legislation has not been introduced.

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