Hello to all! I hope everyone is enjoying the warm summer weather and that you all have a safe, happy and healthy Independence Day! June was a busy month and there is a lot I would like to cover in this month’s article, so I’ll jump right into it!

Last month, I wrote about changes that were being made to the passenger pick-up process at JFK Airport’s Terminals 1 and 5. To recap, as of June 5, for-hire vehicles (FHVs) are no longer able to pick up passengers at the curbside at Terminals 1 and 5. At Terminal 5, pickup operations have been relocated to the roof of the Orange Garage, which has a dedicated FHV entrance and FHV drivers are not charged to enter or exit the garage. Passengers have been directed to take the AirTrain from Terminal 5 to Terminal 7, and then proceed to the garage to meet their driver, a roughly 15-minute trip.

At Terminal 1, passenger pick-ups will be relocated to a remote parking lot just south of the West Cell Lot. Passengers will be shuttled from Terminal 1 to the remote lot, also roughly a 15-minute trip. While not active yet, by the time you are reading this, this new procedure will likely have been implemented.

Since the moment these changes were announced, I have been working closely with our lobbyists to ensure that the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) hears our concerns. Yellow cabs aren’t being relocated and they pay less than other FHVs for access to the airport, so why should they have another unfair advantage? Also, for high-end clientele, these changes completely remove the “high-end” factor from the experience. In Late June, I met with Rick Cotton, Executive Director of the PANYNJ, to express these concerns and he agreed that consideration will be taken with future construction and some degree of curbside access may be restored.

While my hopes aren’t at their highest with this issue, I do feel much better about our chances with the congestion pricing plan. As you may know, this long-anticipated plan has cleared its final federal hurdle and the City has the full go-ahead to move forward with the plan. It’s possible that the plan could be operational as soon as April 2024.

It’s important to note that the MTA will hold one last public comment period, followed by a public hearing on the proposed tolling plan, before it is voted on and adopted. The tolling structure hasn’t been finalized yet by the Traffic Mobility Review Board, so we have been working actively with other industry partners to advocate for a per-trip fee for FHV drivers, rather than a once-a-day fee.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a once-a-day fee doesn’t fall onto the drivers. How would you properly split up a once-a-day fee among your passengers, or even among the multiple companies you may work for? We want to see the surcharge kept as low as possible and applied equally throughout the ground transportation sector. When the public comment period and hearing are announced, it will be important for drivers to make their voices heard. Ultimately, when there is a final decision, we may need to explore our legal options.

Moving on, there are two issues that I feel are important to keep on your radar. First, I want to issue a warning to drivers that the Westchester TLC has been increasing enforcement against point-to-point trip violations. We recently learned about a NYC TLC-licensed driver who was slapped with a $3,900 fine by the Westchester TLC for completing a point-to-point trip in Westchester. Please be extra diligent about this and remember that NYC TLC-licensed drivers CANNOT accept or complete trips that begin and end in Westchester County.

Secondly, New York City Council Member Shekar Krishnan has introduced a bill that would prohibit companies like Uber and Lyft from deactivating drivers from the app without just cause or advance warning. It would require companies to give drivers two weeks’ notice if they are to going to be deactivated, unless it is done for egregious misconduct. The bill also establishes a formal resolution process and guidelines for arbitration to appeal deactivations.

As I wrap up, I’m excited to let you know that the expansion to our Accident Disability Insurance Plan, which provides income protection in the event of an accident that occurs while NOT working, has been live since June 1st. The minimum payment through the benefit has been increased to $1000 from $500, and the maximum age eligibility has been increased to 70 from 65. We also added a $100,000 death benefit to the program so that drivers who lose their life due to a covered accident, while NOT on the job, can have their beneficiaries receive a lump-sum payment of $100,000.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please be aware that in order to be eligible for this benefit, YOU MUST be enrolled in Drivers Benefits. If you suffer an accident and are not already enrolled in Drivers Benefits, you will not be able to become eligible by enrolling after the fact. So please, if you are not already enrolled in Drivers Benefits, do so as soon as possible.

You must also be enrolled to be eligible for our Personal Accident Insurance benefit, as well as our Critical Illness Benefit, which will be launching in the near future. It is completely free to enroll and all the benefits provided are at no-cost to drivers. They are funded by your passengers. To learn more and enroll in Drivers Benefits, please visit ny.driversbenefits.org.

On a final note, The Black Car Fund is excited to once again be a sponsor of the Independent Drivers Guild’s Annual Driver Appreciation Day. It is scheduled for Saturday, July 29th, from 11:00am to 6:00pm at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. Come join us for a great day of family fun, food and music!

Until next time!

Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira J. Goldstein is the Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund and Advisor to the Black Car Assistance Corp. (BCAC).

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