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As New York City prepares to become the first major city in the country to cap the number of vehicles driving for services like Uber, racial justice organizations are rallying against the legislation, calling it a civil rights issue. Groups like the National Urban League and the N.A.A.C.P say the City Council’s plan to place a freeze on the amount of for-hire vehicle licenses for one year hurts minority New Yorkers who have trouble hailing taxis on the street. “Some yellow cabs won’t even go uptown or to parts of Brooklyn,” Rev. Al Sharpton told the New York Times. “If you are downtown they won’t stop.”
The five-part legislation introduced last week by Speaker Corey Johnson and expected to be voted on as early as August 8, would halt issuing new licenses for Uber and other similar services for one year. An exception would be made for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
“I understand the concerns about people of color being denied service, but I want to make clear that we are not diminishing service,” Johnson told the Times. “The vehicles that are out there now will remain out there.”
But civil rights groups, along with Uber, say ride-hailing services better serve black and Latino riders and those who live outside of Manhattan. According to Uber, trips in Brooklyn, specifically in neighborhoods like Crown Heights, East New York and Brownsville, have more than doubled in the past year.
“We are growing the fastest in the outer rings of the outer boroughs because we are serving communities that have been ignored by yellow taxis and taken for granted by the MTA,” Josh Gold, an Uber spokesman, said.
The legislation package comes as congestion on NYC streets is at an all-time high and as the taxi-industry suffers a financial decline. And after five licensed taxi drivers took their own lives in the past six months, officials are seeking more regulation over ride-hailing services.
This is the second time the city attempted to regulate Uber; Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a cap in 2015. But after an overwhelming public campaign by Uber, the measure failed. Since 2015, the number of for-hire vehicles has jumped from 63,000 to 100,000, according to the city.
[Via NY Times]
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