Hello to all! The weather is getting warmer every day as we approach the summer and looking around, things appear to be as close to normal as we can expect. So much happened in May that it felt like the month just flew by. I have a lot to cover so I’ll just jump right into it.
In May, I was featured on Political Personalities with Skye Ostreicher in the City & State publication. If you recall, I’ve written about the looming deadline on the State legislation which allows The Black Car Fund to provide many free health-related benefits and how important it is for the State to renew the deadline on this legislation. I joined our instructors from the Black Car Safety Center to speak with Skye about these benefits and the impact they have had on drivers.
My focus in May was to ensure that we got the legislative extension needed to continue providing our additional benefits, so I also spoke with Ralph Ortega from City & State about the importance of these benefits, as well as the efforts The Fund underwent during the pandemic to ensure drivers had access to PPE and at-home COVID-19 test kits. I also partnered with Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of the Independent Drivers Guild, to pen an op-ed in the Daily News and spread awareness about The Black Car Fund. Even though it seems like allowing us to continue providing free benefits to nearly 100,000 drivers would be a no brainer, nothing is ever a given in Albany.
It was important to keep pushing for this and in the end, it paid off! I’m thrilled to announce that both the State Assembly and State Senate have passed the extension legislation and we’re confident that Governor Hochul will sign it into law. When she does, it will officially authorize us to continue providing all the additional health, wellness and education related benefits that we offer our Covered Drivers for free. With this three-year extension, we’re also excited to explore some new benefits that I will soon be announcing, so keep an eye out for that!
Moving on, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) officially has a new leader. In mid-May, the New York City Council confirmed David Do to serve as Chair and Commissioner. I look forward to working with someone as experienced as him to ensure that drivers and operators have the support they need to move our industry and recovery forward.
He takes over at a critical time as we head into a busy summer. In August, the TLC is expected to release its next report on the issuance of new FHV licenses and the data collected this summer will be interesting to see. There’s as good a chance as ever for some type of adjustment to the moratorium on new licenses.
For the traditional black car sector, the license pause has been devastating. In this sector, most drivers are franchise holders and co-op owners whose investments, often upwards of $100,000, are now virtually worthless while they are unable to get back to work. At the end of May, the Black Car Assistance Corporation submitted testimony to the TLC calling for the creation of a limited-use vehicle license that would allow traditional black car bases to add vehicles that could only operate with traditional black car bases, so as to have a minimal impact on congestion.
At this TLC hearing, which was focused on FHV driver pay, testimony covered topics such as the exorbitant cost of leasing TLC-plated vehicles, app lockouts related to utilization rates, and the impact inflation is having. Many also called for a cap on the amount that Uber & Lyft can take in commission, somewhere in the 10-15% range of the total fare. According to testimony, the commission that Uber & Lyft take can sometimes exceed 50% of the fare.
The TLC also held a separate hearing on the yellow taxi industry and testimony here focused on increasing the fare structure which hasn’t risen in 10 years. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance urged the TLC to raise fares so that drivers can earn $25 per hour after expenses. At the end of the day, a taxi rate increase is good for the black car industry because it narrows the gap in cost.
Moving onto other news, in late May State lawmakers announced that they had reached a deal that will extend and expand New York City’s speed camera program for another three years, while also allowing for them to be operational 24/7. This is a big change as the current cameras only operate Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 10:00pm. The City Council also signed off on the “home-rule request”, essentially approving the measure, which now will have to be passed by the state legislature. By the time you are reading this, the state will have passed it.
Other changes coming to NYC’s streets will come courtesy of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Open Streets Program, which is being expanded to include 300 blocks across all five boroughs by the summer. As you probably know, this program creates pedestrian space by restricting or limiting vehicle traffic. I encourage you all to visit the DOT’s website to familiarize yourself with the different types of closures as well as the updated locations. Don’t rely on your GPS!
Lastly, don’t forget that if you’re a Covered Driver with an accepted Workers’ Compensation claim and have been receiving your indemnity payments by paper check, you can now receive them via Direct Deposit! If you would like to enroll in Direct Deposit, please visit www.nybcf.org/directdeposit and sign up!
Until next time!