Temporary reprieve for Uber
by Francesca Campione
Jul 23, 2015 | 10102 views | 0 0 comments | 201 201 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The de Blasio administration temporarily backed off legislation aimed at capping the number of new drivers Uber can hire per year. In exchange, Uber agreed to a four-month study of its service's effect on New York traffic and to release company data to the city.

The legislation would have put a 1 percent cap on growth, which would allow Uber to hire about 200 new drivers annually.

Queensbridge Park in Long Island City was teeming with interested Uber drivers at a kickoff event for the company's citywide job fair initiative, even as the debate around Uber continues to unfold.

While Uber General Manager Josh Mohrer encouraged prospective drivers to sign up and praised existing partners, at City Hall taxi drivers, community groups and labor leaders rallied against the company.

Mohrer boasted of Uber’s success, saying that each week 25,000 new people worldwide take their first ride using the app. He also said that drivers are given the opportunity to schedule their work around their lives while earning money that provide financial stability.

“We are providing an increased source of opportunity at a time when so many New Yorkers need a dependable source of income,” said Mohrer. “Since the beginning, that is what Uber has been all about.”

Assemblyman Michael Blake of the Bronx attended the job fair and argued that Uber creates opportunities for everyone.

“Uber is about justice in our communities,” Blake said. “Uber is creating opportunities in our communities. This is not just about giving someone a ride, it is about giving someone a chance.”

Proponents of the legislation argue that the accelerated and unregulated growth of Uber negatively impacts the environment and traffic congestion in the city. Opponents also say that Uber is being disingenuous when it states it splits fares 80-20 with drivers.

“Shame on Uber, using their vast resources to spread illogical assertions and distort the truth,” said legislation supporter Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez in a statement prior to the City Hall rally.

Borough President Eric Adams, an Uber supporter, offered Brooklyn Borough Hall as a location for negotiation and discussion.

“I support the growth of disruptive technologies, which includes the need for smart regulation that protects consumer and the environment in which they operate while not creating unnecessary burdens,” Adams said. “We also cannot deny the fact that for-hire vehicles filled a major gap in serving the underserved, left open for years by the yellow taxi industry.”

Current drivers flocked to Uber’s job fair to share their success stories with prospective drivers, including giving them the flexibility to make their own hours and extra income.

For just under six months, Imran Ahmed has been a driver for Uber. After speaking with friends who felt liberated by driving for the company, Ahmed decided to join them. He said prior to that, he worked long hours at a restaurant for low wages and a demanding boss.

“With Uber you don’t have that,” Ahmed said. “Uber lets you be your own boss and it has good income, too. It is a dream come true.”

Unknowingly highlighting the disparity of Uber’s claim to split fares 80-20 with drivers, Ahmed said that Uber receives 30 percent of his income while he keeps 70 percent.

Amaris Bracey is a 22-year-old student who supports her grandmother and pays her own tuition. She is in the process of applying for a Taxi and Limousine Commission license so she can become an Uber driver.

“I hope that this proposed legislation does not take away my chance at making it through school and supporting my grandmother,” Bracey said. “If I can’t drive with Uber I am not really sure what I will do. I have big dreams and I want the flexibility and the security to achieve them.”
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