By Sadef Ali Kully
The billionaire for-hire car service Uber came to an agreement Wednesday under which the City Council will postpone a vote on capping the number of its drivers this year.
The startup company started a social media and advertisement war against Mayor bill de Blasio and four Queens council members who strongly supported the measure known as the Uber cap bill.
The agreement calls for Uberto provide the city with information and data for a study examining the environmental impact of for-hire vehicles, while Uber will maintain its current umber of drivers by not adding additional licenses or vehicles in the city, according to City Council officials.
The original Uber cap bill, pushed by de Blasio and sponsored by Council members Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), among others, would limit Uber to about 200 new drivers in 2015 until the completion of a traffic impact study. Uber supporters pointed out that new jobs would be in jeopardy with the limit on drivers.
“Specifically, the city will move forward with a traffic study, to conclude at the end of November, to examine the impact of Uber and the for-hire vehicle industry on traffic congestion on New York City streets. Uber will share information for the study above and beyond what has previously been provided, with safeguards to protect privacy,” said First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris, who took over negotiations while the mayor was in Rome for a conference. “Uber has also agreed to maintain its approximate current rate of growth and not flood the streets with new licenses and vehicles. The cap legislation currently before the City Council will be tabled throughout the traffic study process.”
Almost one third of Uber drivers, an estimated 8,000 out of 26,000, are from Queens, according to Uber. Uber also estimates that 600,000 trips are clocked within Queens each month.
Uber said that close to 98 percent of New York City drivers live in the outer boroughs or Manhattan north of Central Park.
Before the agreement, an Uber spokeswoman said the company planned to create more than 4,000 job opportunities by the end of the year for Queens residents alone and the cap bill would take away economic opportunity for the people who need it the most.
At an unrelated news conference Monday, de Blasio said Uber “ was looking out for their corporate bottom line. They’re putting their profits over all other considerations.”
The debate between the mayor and the $50 billion tech giant had become heated as Uber bought attack ads against supporters of the bill, including Lancman.
The councilman said this week’s accord was important but pointed out “whether or not this is a positive or negative agreement for the city will depend on whether the mayor reshapes how the 1970s for-hire vehicle industry is currently structured.”
Before the city and Uber came to an agreement, city Comptroller Scott Stringer gave his support to the car-for-hire app, while Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took to Twitter to dispel what he called rumors about Uber’s unsafe and illegal drivers.
With major support in immigrant communities, Uber said that more than a quarter of all Uber rides are to, from or within the outer boroughs, compared to just 6 percent of traditional yellow taxi trips.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull