At any other time in the history of the Black Car industry, the FHV Coalition’s victory over the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission’s (TLC’s) ill-conceived 25% WAV rule would have warranted a full-blown celebration – but just days after news hit that an Article 78 petition brought against the TLC in New York Supreme Court had prevailed, resulting in settlement terms favorable to the FHV industry, another driver suicide blunted the enthusiasm of everyone who has been following this terrible trend over the past six months.
The latest victim, 59-year-old Abdul Saleh, was a Yemeni immigrant caught in a tragic loop of working too many hours in soul-crushing traffic, and after decades of earning a living as a yellow taxi driver could no longer pay his cab lease payments, afford his rent or send money home to his mother in Yemen. It was the sixth such NYC driver suicide in as many months, and a story that continues to be told by tens of thousands of drivers.
A number of bills have been drafted by NY City Council members, but we have yet to see any policy changes that might ease the pain of struggling drivers. Industry activists are calling for a cap on the number of vehicles regulated by the TLC, an industry standard for fares and pleading with lenders to lower interest rates for yellow cab drivers struggling to keep up with pricey medallion debt payments, among other things. As of yet, nothing has passed – and the clock continues to tick.
TLC WAV Program
Even as we mourn the death of yet another driver, it is still important to note that the TLC’s 25% WAV rule, set to go into effect on July 1, was postponed – and credit goes to the members of the FHV Industry Coalition. The court settlement suspends both implementation and enforcement action of the TLC’s WAV rule, “until such time that the NYC TLC Board of Commissioners can convene, vote on and approve of the settlement reached in court by NYC TLC representatives,” according to a Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC) press release.
The victory was reportedly achieved by litigation brought against the TLC by the FHV Coalition, and the pressure put on the TLC in Albany, with state legislators pushing for the passage of a bill that would have taken authority away from the TLC to implement and enforce its “unreasonable mandate.” The settlement, reached June 13, can be read in its entirety here: https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/fbem/DocumentDisplayServlet?documentId=sDwEhLSjaEg4bYpursuyng==&system=prod. The FHV Coalition pilot program, which is being codified into rule making, will now be an official and permanent alternative path to FHV accessibility service compliance.
It’s important to note that the 25% mandate still remains, but only comes into play if a base chooses not to utilize and contract with an Accessible Vehicle Dispatcher or AVD (previously referred to as a WAV-D) to fulfill service requests. The BCAC was able to successfully negotiate a nominal cost of $0.02 per accessible ride.
It is also important to note that under the terms of the settlement, the number of AVDs will no longer be limited to three, but instead will be open to all applicants who meet NYC TLC criteria for approval, as long as an AVD has service contracts with at least 10 bases. According to the BCAC, this creates a framework for new and increased competition (albeit, conditional on the BCAC’s follow-through).
“I would like to formally take this time to thank BCAC Executive Director, Ira Goldstein, for his tireless efforts; seeing to it that our industry is protected, as always,” said Berj Haroutunian, BCAC Chairman of the Board. “His dedication to the BCAC and our industry truly knows no bounds, as made clear by his recent countless 24-hour days. Thanks must also be given to various other participants, such as our wonderful team of lobbyists, who worked diligently to advance the state legislation leading up to the Article 78 settlement, as well as our General Counsel, Wayne Baden, for all of his outstanding work. And finally, to Shafquat Chaudhary, President of Elite Limousine Plus, Inc., who took an entire day out of his busy schedule to visit Albany with the BCAC legislative team to lobby for our best interests.”
Industry Founder, Victor Dizengoff Puts Down His Pen
It is with mixed feelings that I announce that Victor Dizengoff, my mentor and a founding father of the Black Car industry will no longer be writing a monthly column for Black Car News. Having spent nearly six decades in the industry (WOW!) – whether as a driver, base owner, industry leader, industry newspaper owner or columnist – Vic is retiring, and plans to devote his time to his family (including his wife, Sandy, his kids and 10 grandchildren) and the many charitable organizations he supports.
Although I purchased Black Car Newsfrom Vic in 2005, he remained in the industry for a number of years, until officially retiring from his duties about seven and half years ago at the Black Car Assistance Corporation and the New York Black Car Fund – both organizations that he helped found. He continued to serve as a columnist for Black Car News, until now.
Vic believed in me when he decided it was time to sell Black Car News, and I will be forever grateful for his confidence and guidance.
Thank you for everything, Vic! You mean the world to me. I am sorry to see you go, but happy to know that you will have more time to spend with your amazing family.