Mayor Bill de Blasio joined council members, taxi workers and advocates at Union Square Park Thursday to celebrate the passage of the country’s first cap on for-hire vehicles.
De Blasio said he will sign the five pieces of legislation on Tuesday. The package directly effects e-hail companies such as Uber and Lift and institute a yearlong moratorium on new for-hire licenses. The mayor said the new regulations would ease congestion on the streets, and help the yellow cab and for-hire vehicle drivers who had to struggle with declining incomes.
De Blasio, who abandoned similar regulation efforts in 2015, had harsh words for Uber and their public campaign against the legislation despite driver support.
“Uber a few years ago tried to be some white knight, and now people understand just how much damage Uber has done in many different ways,” de Blasio said.
Later Thursday, Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang countered that the public’s main transit woe is the broken subway system, not for-hire vehicles.
“We urge Mayor de Blasio to advocate in the strongest terms for the one solution that transportation experts and editorial boards agree would actually solve for congestion and fix the subways — comprehensive congestion pricing,” she said in a statement.
The legislation, which passed with majority votes in the City Council on Wednesday, includes some stipulations. The 12-month cap won’t apply to new drivers with cars that are wheelchair accessible, and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission maintains the right to lift the cap if there is a need discovered in a specific area. The TLC also must establish a minimum wage for the drivers within 75 days.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said declining pay in the taxi and for-hire vehicle industry was one of the biggest factors behind the passage. Nearly 40 percent of the for-hire vehicles are empty, and six suicides by city drivers in the last couple of months added to the urgency, according to Johnson.
“This is not just about statistics,” he said. “It’s about the human lives.”
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said the bills’ passage brought a sense of relief for her members.
“We just wanted to be seen. We just wanted to be heard,” she said. “We wanted our humanity to be recognized as something greater than corporate greed and corporate interest.”
Critics of the bills argue that the for-hire vehicles were the only transportation option for outer-borough residents. However, de Blasio argued that the new rules would not affect outer-borough service.
“I know there is already excess capacity out there, and what it means is that those drivers will have fares,” he said.