By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Following frequent reports made by passengers of discrimination in such ridesharing services as Uber and Lyft, the City Council announced on Monday that a new office within the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has been created to combat acts of discrimination, which take place most often in the outer boroughs—including Queens.
The Office of Inclusion, which was proposed by Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), focuses on the development and implementation of anti-discrimination training for drivers, expanding its public education campaign and encouraging passengers to file complaints when denied service.
“Denying someone taxi service because of the color of their skin, their gender or their destination is simply unacceptable and has gone on for far too long in New York City,” said Richards. “While we work to improve conditions for drivers, the TLC Office of Inclusion will be working to ensure that all passengers receive the same level of respect and service.”
TLC Chairwoman Meera Joshi said that blacks, Latinos, other communities of color and outer-borough residents face challenges when attempting to get car service to their destinations.
“Service refusal in general and bias-based refusal in particular is a terrible experience for its victims—it is visceral, hurtful and just wrong,” said Joshi.
Alex Ruiz, 25, a resident of Jamaica who works in Greenwich Village, said he is pleased that the city is combatting discrimination, particularly in Queens, but added that he wishes the city would “leave Uber’s policies to Uber.”
“Everyone knows Queens is the most-diverse borough,” said Ruiz. “They also know that Queens is the worst borough to live in if you’re dependent on public transportation. I personally have never been denied a ride, but I have been looked at funny, not because my color but because I’m obviously gay. I like the fact that the city is trying to combat discrimination, but I am opposed to their decision to cap the cars. It’s already hard for me to get an Uber Pool at 3 a.m. every night when I’m leaving work, which eats my pockets. The last thing I need is to be waiting because there’s no vehicle in my radius.”
The City Council’s proposed bill to cap ridesharing vehicles in New York City, which is expected to be brought to a vote on Aug. 8, was created to limit the number of vehicles—which has increased from 63,000 cars to 100,000 since 2015—as well as to condense traffic and combat yellow-cab driver suicides, which have increased due to heavy competition from such ridesharing apps as Uber and Lyft.
“This would take New York back to an era of standing on the corner and hoping to get a ride,” said Kenneth Londono, a Lyft spokesman. “Wait times would increase significantly, and driver earnings and job opportunities would shrink. Worst of all, the proposals prioritize corporate medallion owners above the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers.”
If a cap goes into effect, for-hire vehicles will likely camp in Manhattan—which is the wealthiest borough—neglecting the “outer boroughs.”
Alissa Jimenez, 24, a Jackson Heights resident, said that Uber and Lyft are convenient because you can order a car on your phone in minutes—and Uber Pool is even cheaper.
“Uber Pool is so convenient,” said Jimenez. “If I were to call a regular cab, it would take almost 15 minutes to come and charge me double what I would pay if I did Uber Pool.”
Jimenez, who originally hails from the Bronx, said that Uber and Lyft are to Queens what yellow cabs are to Manhattan and green cabs are to the Bronx.
Hector Figueroa, the president of Local 32BJ, said that he supports the City Council’s bill to cap ridesharing cars.
“City Council legislation regulating the app-dispatch sector will help alleviate the financial pressure on New York City drivers in every sector, mostly immigrants and people of color, who are sinking deeper into poverty as companies like Uber and Lyft continue to put too many cars on the road, lower labor standards and decimate driver incomes,” said Figueroa.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x 144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.