Hello to all. As we get ready to kick off the summer, it’s truly amazing to think about how far we’ve come since this time last year. When we entered June last year, the future looked dim and June proved to be a difficult month, filled with fear and civil unrest. This year, June looks poised to be much different as COVID restrictions have been eased and most things are back to normal in terms of reopening.

As most of you have heard by now, the state relaxed the mask guidelines and requirements, following changes to the CDC’s recommendations. However, there had been confusion and uncertainty as to whether drivers and passengers were still required to wear masks. To be clear, however, New York State has adopted the CDC definition of “public transportation” in regards to continuing to require masks. Under this definition, black cars are included, so for the time being, drivers and passengers must continue to mask up!

This June is also particularly important because of the primary election for Mayor. The Democratic nominee will almost certainly go on to become our next Mayor so it’s important to go out there and vote. This is also the first mayoral primary to implement the new “ranked choice” voting, so it will be very interesting to see how the election plays out.

For our city, particularly with regard to small businesses, the  black car industry believes that Brooklyn Borough President Adams is undoubtedly the best choice to lead us. He has always been a strong supporter of small businesses and understands the critical role they play in our city’s economy. He would push forward smart policies and a better government that delivers for all New Yorkers. As a 20-year veteran of the NYPD, he also understands the importance of public safety and knows that more must be done to reel in the spike in crime our city has recently seen.

Most importantly however, with regard to transportation policy, he also agrees that trade groups like the Black Car Assistance Corporation, as well as other industry stakeholders, need to be more involved by the next administration in the discussions and decisions that affect us. He would support creating a transportation czar that would involve us more intimately, and support the interests of small businesses so that our voice is not overpowered by those of mass transportation advocates. The Mayor’s race is always important, but with everything that has happened over the last year, the devastation it has had on the ground transportation industry, and with everything our current Mayor has done (or not done) during his tenure, it has never been more important.

Moving onto other City news, the City Council recently passed a bill that will ultimately create more car-free streets in the city. The Open Streets Program, which was started in March 2020, allowed certain roads to be closed temporarily to be used for pedestrian space and for outdoor seating for restaurants. It was started as a temporary measure and extended this past fall. The bill that just passed now formally codifies the program, but more importantly, it establishes funding for it so that the Department of Transportation (DOT) can manage the existing and new street closures throughout the city.

According to the DOT, there are currently about 60 miles worth of street closures in the city. Under the new legislation, this number will have a major increase now that business improvement districts, community groups, and other organizations are able to request resources from the city to maintain street closures. The bill even allows some streets to be closed 24 hours a day. The city as a whole continues to move in an anti-car direction as they work to reduce congestion.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) also seems poised to take another step to battle congestion this month. As you know, there has been a moratorium on the issuance of new FHV licenses, but wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have been exempt from the cap. In June, the TLC will hold a public hearing on a proposed rule change that will remove the exemption for battery electric vehicles.

The TLC states that this is being done due to an expected influx of BEV applications now that BEVs have become more affordable and widely available. Some of you may have heard that the company Revel, had recently announced that they planned on launching a fleet of BEVs with employee drivers. There was some clear pushback from the TLC who said that they would be unable to launch due to the cap, but Revel was quick to point to the BEV exemption.

On a final note, in recent months, I have written about our new partnership with Vuro Technologies that expanded our S.A.F.E. iD program. Through Vuro, we are able to provide drivers who opt into S.A.F.E. iD with BOTH a free dual-sided dashboard camera, as well as an onboard device, to bring them the best of both worlds. The Vuro devices also have new features such as distraction and drowsiness alerts, a panic button, and even a parking mode that protects your car while it’s parked and can record if it senses motion or impact.

The spots in this part of the program have filled up fast and there are only a handful of devices available, so don’t wait! Head on over to  www.nybcf.org/safeid to opt-in now! We also have some more exciting news regarding our S.A.F.E. iD program that I look forward to announcing soon. Keep your eyes peeled!

Until next time!Ira’s Insights

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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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