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Uber under fire in NYC

Scott Stringer holds a press conference July 21,

Scott Stringer holds a press conference July 21, 2015, to speak about Uber. Credit: Rebecca Harshbarger / Rebecca Harshbarger

The city comptroller Tuesday called for the brakes to be slammed on a proposed cap on Uber and other for-hire cars, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ripped the company as it started an aggressive campaign for new drivers.

Comptroller Scott Stringer said the city shouldn't limit black and livery cars without first studying the impact of the industry on traffic.

"It makes no sense to arbitrarily cap Uber and other for-hire vehicle companies before we study the impact of congestion on the streets of New York," he said.

The City Council could vote as early as Thursday on two related bills: one that would study the impact of the rapidly growing black and livery car industry on traffic congestion; and another that would sharply limit the cars during the analysis.

Stringer supports the study but said he hoped the vote on the cap would be taken off the table until it is completed.

"It's a knee-jerk response when we should be thinking like urban planners and transportation planners," he said. "And the city economy is at stake."

A spokesman for the mayor said the city is running out of time.

"We don't have the luxury of deferring action," said Wiley Norvell. "Without it, we'd face for-hire companies adding nearly as many new cars in the next six months as there are taxicabs in all of New York."

Before Stringer jumped into the debate Tuesday, de Blasio blasted Uber while visiting Vatican City. He said he had spoken to the Parisian mayor about the app company, and that both Paris and London faced similar challenges with Uber.

"As a multibillion-dollar corporation, Uber thinks it can dictate to government," he said. "The people of our cities don't like the notion of those who are particularly wealthy and powerful dictating the terms to a government elected by the people."

Stringer also called for black and livery cars to pay an MTA tax, as do yellow cabs, which contributed about $85 million toward public transit in 2014. The Taxi and Limousine Commission estimates that an MTA surcharge for black and livery cars could bring in an additional $70 million.

Despite a proposed cap that would limit Uber to an increase of 201 drivers while the city studied congestion, the company began a jobs tour Tuesday in Long Island City, looking to attract more drivers.

Olawale Akinfeleye, 47, of Queens said he already had been driving for Uber for six months but came to show his support for the app and said he opposes a limit to new cars.

Actor and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher weighed in on social media.

"I am beside myself with the regulation that Mayor DeBlasio is trying to force upon Uber and the citizens of NYC," he wrote on Facebook.

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