Hello to all. It’s hard to believe that another month has already passed since my last article. New York, and our country as a whole, is in a much better place now than it was at the end of April: at least from a health perspective. The economic consequences of this pandemic, however, have been nothing short of catastrophic. Even with the relief measures that have been taken by the federal government, many people are still hurting and recovery will take a long time. I have several updates from last month’s article, so let me jump right into it.

At the time that I’m writing this, Governor Cuomo has extended his New York on PAUSE order through May 28th. However, he has also extended the state of emergency through June 13th. This would allow him to extend the PAUSE order until that time, or possibly longer if he extends the state of emergency again. While this sounds ominous, all regions in New York have already begun reopening except for New York City, and it even seems possible that New York City may begin the first phases of reopening as early as this month. This would be welcome news for the city’s economy but it also signifies the great strides we’ve made in addressing this crisis from a health management perspective. I hope that’s the case when I sit down to write July’s article.

We must remember though, that this is no time to let our guards down. In that respect, The Black Car Fund is continuing to distribute safety kits with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to protect drivers while they work.

The response we have received has also been overwhelmingly positive and we have run out of supplies several times. We expect to continue obtaining more though and I strongly urge you to follow us on social media so that you can get the latest updates on distribution locations. We are active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and our handle is @nybcf across all these platforms. Please follow us and stay connected!

You may have also heard that the TLC announced that they are allowing all vehicles without partitions, the opportunity to have temporary partitions installed by approved partition installers. Masks and gloves are great, but a partition in your vehicle may be an added layer of protection that is worth the investment. In the past, partitions for vehicles have had to meet technical requirements set by the TLC. However, the TLC has stated that they are temporarily easing these restrictions in order to allow non-bulletproof partitions to be installed.

While the TLC has stated that enforcement will not be a priority, it’s important to note though that the TLC is requiring you to use one of their approved installers. The TLC has provided that list and you can access it by clicking this link!

Continuing with New York City news, the Open Streets plan I wrote about last month is in full effect. Over 40 miles of streets have already been designated as open streets in order to allow for greater social distancing for pedestrians. The plan is to expand to a total of 100 miles throughout the city. Generally, the streets will be closed from 8am to 8pm each day, unless NYPD staffing issues do not allow for a particular location to remain closed.

As a driver, it’s important for you to be aware of these streets as it’s likely that GPS services will not be able to keep up. You can view and download Open Street locations through NYC Open Data by clicking here!

This month, the City Council held a hearing which focused on a package of bills aimed at providing workers with relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. One bill, in particular, is aimed at extending paid sick leave benefits to independent contractors by forcing businesses to classify them as employees solely for the purposes of paid sick leave. This would be done by applying the infamous ABC test to determine if an independent contractor should be treated as an employee. While the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection’s (DCWP) Commissioner, Lorelei Salas, testified that DCWP doesn’t have the resources to enforce this legislation, the real problem is that the ABC test has generally not been successful in bringing results for workers. Look no further than California’s AB5, and the legal headaches that have followed, to see the failings of the ABC test.

What the City Council ultimately does remains to be seen, but the clock is running out on these bills as the city moves closer to reopening. At this time, there is no vote scheduled on these bills but I’m sure I will have updates on this in next month’s newsletter.

At the end of April, the MTA Chairman Patrick Foye cast doubt on the likelihood of congestion pricing taking effect in January 2021, as was the plan. Even before the pandemic happened, there were already concerns about the timeline due to critical holdups on the Federal Government side of things. Now, with the feds dealing with the pandemic, I really doubt that congestion pricing is high on their list of priorities.

If and when the Governor gets the go-ahead from the feds, it’s possible that congestion pricing will be fast-tracked. If that’s the case, the black car industry will need to be ready to take a stand and ensure it is treated fairly. As I’ve said many times before, we want fairness across the ground transportation industry. One particular sector cannot be granted exemptions that the rest don’t get because if they do then the government would essentially be picking winners and losers. We are ready for that fight when the time comes.

Until next time!

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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