New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) Chairwoman Meera Joshi has described her planned departure from the agency in March as “a mutual decision,” adding that a “turnover of commissioners” occurs at some point in every administration. The planned departure comes amid the implementation of several groundbreaking programs designed to aid an ailing industry, including new minimum-wage regulations for app-based drivers, a study to determine the future of a one-year cap on For-hire Vehicle (FHV) licenses and a wheelchair-accessible FHV dispatch program.
Because of ongoing litigation, Joshi said she could not address her disagreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio over a congestion surcharge on taxis and FHVs that some observers believe was part of the reason she’s leaving. Last year she said the fee, which the mayor supports, would have a “devastating” effect on the taxi industry.
Joshi took a parting shot at Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who has channeled the hostility of taxi medallion owners toward the TLC, which Joshi has chaired since 2014.
“I don’t know if it’s the worst thing in the world not to play politics well,” she said of herself in January. “In the council environment, I am limited. I am under oath when I speak. He doesn’t operate under that same limitation.”
Whatever their differences, the Mayor praised Joshi after she announced she’d be leaving: “In this unprecedented period of growth, Meera has brought about equally unprecedented and vital change that will serve as a model for cities throughout the nation and the world.”
Some insiders are blaming tension on initiatives Joshi introduced without getting the mayor’s blessing, but Joshi said, “I think I’ve always conducted myself in a way where I’m open.”
Asked about Diaz, who chairs the City Council’s FHV Committee, she noted that they have “very different approaches” to policy and lawmaking which “created a very unproductive clash.’
In a phone interview, Diaz responded that his committee had been behind the passage of an unprecedented number of bills regulating app-based companies and helping cab drivers.
“We regulated Uber,” he said. “I call that productive.”
Joshi’s tenure coincided with the proliferation of Uber-affiliated vehicles across the city and most controversially in the central business district, exacerbating congestion and leading to an 80% decline in the value of taxi medallions. Taxi interests focused their ire on Joshi, even though Uber’s rise was enabled by court rulings and the City Council’s withdrawal in 2015 of a proposed cap on the company’s growth.
“I’m more often than not the target for the venting, even when I am not able to make the changes they want,” Joshi lamented. “Lots of people who were really angry at me now say they are sorry to see me go.”
Source: Crain’s New York Business