Hello to all! I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and spent time catching up with family and loved ones. The last leaves are falling off the trees, a signal that winter and the Holiday Season are now approaching. There are several important topics I want to cover in this month’s article so I will just jump right into it.

Legislatively, there are a couple of new developments that everyone should be aware of. First, the City Council has proposed legislation that will require drivers to stay at least three feet away from cyclists when passing them in the street. Technically, the 2010 State bill known as Merill’s Law already requires drivers to pass cyclists at a “safe” distance. However, since that distance isn’t defined in the bill, it has been difficult to enforce properly. The City Council’s new bill would define “safe” distance as three feet and would allow it to be enforced more strictly.

Secondly, early this year, a bill was introduced to the City Council that would require all passengers riding in the back seat of a vehicle in New York City to wear a seat belt. That bill was brought up at a recent City Council Transportation Committee hearing and it’s very likely that it will be passed. If the bill were to become law, it would be important to understand what it entails. Currently as it’s written, the bill would NOT require TLC drivers to force their passengers to wear seat belts in the back seat. There would be no onus on drivers. However, passengers would have the requirement to wear the seat belt and could be hit with a fine if they are caught riding without it. Therefore, it’s definitely something that you would want to relay to your passengers as a courtesy. It will also be important for drivers to ensure their rear passenger seat belts are visible and in good working condition – since, if they are not, it could potentially result in a fine for them.

Moving onto lighter news, the Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC) was proud to be a sponsor for this year’s SOMOS Conference in Puerto Rico. SOMOS, Inc. is a non-profit organization that raises awareness and advocates for public policy and issues in the Latino community. This year’s conference was focused on the ongoing crisis and recovery that Puerto Rico faces.

The BCAC sponsored their Welcome Reception, which kicked off a long weekend of service-related activities and dialogues on key issues in Puerto Rico, such as energy, resiliency, business development, health and education. The SOMOS conference is a great way to come together and do something good for Puerto Rico. It is also an occasion for networking with elected officials in an informal setting. This provides an opportunity to make them aware of the issues facing the black car industry, as well as spread awareness of the unique benefits black car drivers are entitled to in New York by way of The Black Car Fund.

Lastly, you may recall I have written about the BCAC’s push for a new “restricted” vehicle license in previous months. As a quick refresher, the proposed new restricted FHV licenses would be designed to allow Black Car, Luxury Limousine and Livery bases to add new vehicles that would only be allowed to operate within their specific classes. For example, a black car with a new restricted license would be allowed to work for any black car base, but not for a high-volume app-based company or livery base.

We continue to make progress on this issue. Earlier this month, the black car and livery industries met with Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and the City Council Speaker’s staff and had a very positive discussion. Furthermore, Council Member Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation, has taken up this cause and even made it a focal point of an oversight hearing he held on November 18th. After the TLC moved forward with their decision to extend the FHV license cap, I said that this new restricted vehicle license would likely only become a reality if it was established through the legislative process in the City Council. Now, it seems like we are taking very real steps towards that end. I look forward to updating you once Council Member Rodriguez introduces legislation in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you for reading and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like to learn more about The Black Car Fund (http://www.nybcf.org/) or the Black Car Assistance Corporation (https://www.nybcac.org/). Until next time!

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Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira Goldstein is Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund, Chief Operating Officer of the Black Car Assistance Corporation and Treasurer of the Coalition of Transportation Associations.

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