Dear Honorable Speaker Corey Johnson,
August 2, 2018
Doug Schifter didn’t have the money for an ad campaign; instead he gave his life for the support and votes of each of the City Council Members.
My name is Diana Clemente, and I am the President of Big Apple Car, a legacy black car company operating since 1983. Everyone in the industry knows that Uber is here to stay, but nobody is making money anymore. Not yellow cab drivers, not black car drivers and not drivers from Uber, Lyft or any of the other app companies.
Since the emergence of the tens of thousands of new app based for-hire cars have you ever been locked in-between cars in Manhattan with an ambulance’s siren screaming behind you? But you can’t move an inch because the cars coming cross-town either don’t hear the siren, or they have waited so long to cross the intersection that they keep on moving. I’d hate to think I had a loved one who might need a rushed trip to a hospital from Midtown Manhattan. Do any of you?
But there is good news; Uber’s new CEO has shared that they don’t need to be profitable to place their IPO. And that’s the only time any of us – black car companies, medallion owners and MTA officials should be jealous. None of us have the luxury of investor money being thrown at us so that we can stay in business and continue to swim in red ink. They can even spare $100 million to sway your vote, but based on your swift refusal Honorable Speaker Johnson I’m relieved to know that the Council Member votes are not for sale.
And are you aware of how the banks and credit unions have turned their backs on the industry? Our previous bank decided they didn’t like the industry after 16-years of financing our receivables with never a late payment. The pressure on everyone is crushing and while there have been six tragic suicides, hundreds and perhaps thousands more are suffering from depression, fear and constant anxiety.
But Uber wants to convince everyone, including their riders, that immediate gratification is needed. Of course, everyone needs to be able to book a ride and have a car appear in two minutes. Imagine if someone had to wait 10 minutes for a car? Could people handle that? Uber says no, but you know better. It’s ridiculous already.
Aside from the industry cost, for customers and residents, there is a real safety concern: Drivers are working much longer hours to make ends meet, and congestion in the City – certainly not a new phenomenon – has grown exponentially. And when congestion pricing takes effect we will all be paying for the luxury of sitting in gridlock traffic, only adding insult to injury.
Based on all of the news reports I’m personally confident that the Council Members recognize that enough is enough, but out of respect for Doug Schifter’s sacrifice for all of us who struggle daily I decided to share the horrible photo below because I want to be sure that I do my part to honor his memory, and support all who are struggling in the for-hire industry.
I don’t know how else to convey the hopelessness those in our industry are coping with. Please honor him, and the other men who also took their lives in utter futility – by taking concrete steps to introduce some controls or regulations on the current environment and play your part in bringing the transportation industry to a reasonable level of sustainability.
Uber crushed DeBlasio’s efforts in 2015 and he never returned to battle after his defeat. All of you have the power to make a difference. It’s time.
And because the news media tends to refer to those who have taken their lives in a category of “six driver suicides in as many months,” I also include the names of the men who were driven to take a most drastic measure because others have failed to take any measures at all.
President, Big Apple Car