Gotham Gazette Wed, 26 Sep 2018 02:57:35 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) For-Hire Companies Must Make Rides Accessible to All uberwav uber

(photo via Uber)

They may claim to be “doing the right thing” in their splashy campaigns, but for-hire-vehicle companies like Uber and Lyft are in New York courts right now fighting fairness -- when it comes to serving the city’s 99,000 wheelchair users.

Whether you need to get to a job interview, a doctor’s appointment, or a dinner with friends, finding reliable and affordable transportation is a daily struggle if you use a wheelchair in New York City. The subway system -- with its tiny number of functioning elevators -- remains almost wholly inaccessible. Buses creep along, and the MTA’s paratransit system, Access-A-Ride, runs notoriously late and slow. The taxi industry offers a limited number of wheelchair-accessible vans with ramps (after years of litigation), and the number does not match the need. And in any case, cabs remain heavily concentrated in Manhattan and are extremely difficult to find in the outer-borough neighborhoods where many people with disabilities live.

One might think that the giant for-hire-vehicle (FHV) industry would look to fill this urgent transportation need, but only two of the major companies -- Uber and Lyft -- even claim to offer wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) service, while Via, Juno, and Gett offer none at all.

But, 70 percent of the time the WAV services offered by Uber and Lyft failed even to locate a WAV during our testing last month for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s report “Left Behind,” in which we requested identical WAV and “regular,” non-WAV rides for the same time periods, at common locations such as JFK and LaGuardia airports, major medical centers, and Grand Central Station. To make matters worse, in the few instances when the smartphone platform apps did locate a WAV, the estimated wait time averaged four times as long as the wait time for inaccessible vehicles.

In response to this blatant equal rights violation perpetrated throughout the city’s massive fleet of 100,000 for-hire vehicles, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) prepared a new rule requiring FHV operators, including “e-hail” operators such as Uber and Lyft, to incorporate a minimum number of WAVs into their fleets, starting with a minimal five percent this year, and increasing to a not-that-much-larger 25% percent by 2023.

But instead of taking this opportunity to serve the public fairly, as required by law, Uber, Lyft, and Via are fighting the new provision in court, claiming that it will inflict “economic damage” on the massive industry. Even worse, the large for-hire-vehicle companies are doubling down on their discriminatory practices – they are now pushing a bill in the state Legislature that would entirely override the TLC’s authority to mandate more accessible vehicles and effectively create a separate and unequal FHV service for people with disabilities.

Accompanying the mega-companies’ profit-driven objection is the unsubstantiated argument that individual drivers will not want to operate ramp-equipped wheelchair accessible vehicles, because they are more expensive to purchase and slower to operate. These arguments ring hollow. Uber, Lyft, and other FHV dispatch corporations are expert at offering an extensive menu of bonuses and incentives to drivers to ensure that there are ample drivers and vehicles available when and where the company wants them.

For example, Uber’s website touts perks like $800 in guaranteed income for new drivers, immediate same-day sessions for new drivers to help “fast track” the TLC licensing process, and a range of vehicle rental, lease, and financing options for drivers who don’t own vehicles. Plenty of FHV drivers choose to drive large, inefficient SUVs and luxury vehicles (to the detriment of our local air quality and traffic congestion) because the company offers them incentives to do so -- and plenty would opt to drive accessible vehicles equipped with wheelchair ramps, if offered the right incentives.

If these FHV e-hail corporations want to continue operating in our city (and clogging our streets with thousands of inaccessible vehicles), they should be required to harness their enormous resources to provide equal access to the thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities who most need their services.

Justin Wood is Director of Organizing and Strategic Research at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (@NYLPI) and author of the “Left Behind” report.

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For-Hire Companies Must Make Rides Accessible to All Sun, 17 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Don’t Let Congestion Pricing Push Accessible Taxis Off the Road masud1

Masud Chowdhury, the author

As a longtime yellow taxi driver, I was proud to be among the first to drive one of the city’s wheelchair-accessible taxis, which are equipped to serve New Yorkers with disabilities. There are now around 2,000 accessible yellow taxis in New York City as the industry continues striving to become 50 percent accessible by 2020.

But it might be impossible for taxi drivers like me to keep our accessible vehicles on the road if we are hit with high fees under a congestion pricing system designed to raise funds for mass transit repairs. While the concept of congestion pricing is a good thing and more money must be generated for our subway system, the fact is that it would be unfair to target yellow taxis under such a program.

The problem here is that state officials are in the process of considering potential congestion pricing plans that would treat taxis in the same way as app-based ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. Although that might sound fair, in reality it is not fair at all.

Yellow taxis have already contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to our subways and mass transit infrastructure, as well as providing an important source of accessible transportation. Uber and Lyft, both multi-billion-dollar companies, have done neither of these things – and any congestion pricing plan must hold these companies accountable without harming hardworking taxi drivers who are already doing the right thing.

New Yorkers must remember that, since 2009, yellow taxis have been paying a 50-cent fee to the MTA on every single ride, generating significant revenue for mass transit. Uber and Lyft have refused to follow suit and instead pay sales tax, which does not provide nearly as much support to the subway system. In fact, MTA officials have acknowledged in the past that the rapid growth of app-based companies has deprived the state of funding that could have gone to support mass transit infrastructure.

At the same time, while cabbies like me have put a great deal of effort into driving accessible taxis that are much costlier and more difficult to maintain, Uber and Lyft have done nothing to put their own accessible cars on the road. We are already bearing a heavy burden to provide this important service to thousands of wheelchair users – and these billionaire companies are not.

And let’s be real – we all know these companies have been the much bigger driver of added congestion in New York City. Since 2013, the number of vehicles for Uber, Lyft and other similar companies has nearly doubled from 47,000 to more than 100,000 in 2017, while the yellow taxi industry remains capped at roughly 13,500 medallions.

When you look at all the facts, there is simply no reason for state officials to even consider a congestion pricing plan that would treat taxi drivers like me the same as companies like Uber and Lyft. It wouldn’t just be unfair – it could make it even harder to keep costly accessible taxis on the road, and that would be a problem not just for me but for so many New Yorkers with disabilities.

On behalf of other drivers feeling the same concerns, I sincerely hope that Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature will keep these important issues in mind and develop a congestion pricing framework that is fair to everyone on the road – including yellow taxis.

Masud Chowdhury drives a wheelchair accessible taxi. A yellow taxi driver for more than 20 years, he lives with his family in Ozone Park, Queens.

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Don’t Let Congestion Pricing Push Accessible Taxis Off the Road Tue, 13 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The City’s Bogus Compromise with Uber Would Hurt Riders with Disabilities accessible cab

(photo via

The hustle and bustle of New York is a part of its identity: we New Yorkers are always on the move. Our officials must fight for equal access to transportation, but as those of us with disabilities know, accessible methods of travel are shamefully limited. This is why the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has apparently been negotiating with private for-hire car companies like Uber and Lyft on the issue of wheelchair accessible taxis for several months.

This could have been an encouraging sign, but last week, it became clear that TLC is more interested in cutting a backroom deal with Uber and Lyft than it is with seriously listening to wheelchair users. The TLC has even gone so far as to ignore sensible calls for action in favor of a proposal initiated by the very same companies who created this crisis.

It has been clear that the city’s yellow taxi accessibility program is on the ropes – mainly because accessible taxis cost much more to operate and maintain than regular taxis. The TLC created the Taxi Improvement Fund (TIF), which takes 30 cents from each yellow cab ride to support drivers with accessible vehicles. But it has become increasingly clear to disabled riders that the current TIF program is not enough. Drivers are struggling to make ends meet, and the program is in danger of complete collapse.

That is why I have called upon the TLC to mandate that ride-hail companies, including multi-billion dollar giants like Uber and Lyft, contribute to the TIF. Since these companies have proven to less than friendly to disabled riders, they should have to pay a higher fee.

This plan is simple and effective. The TIF is a city fund overseen by the city, rather than a state tax, so this tweak wouldn’t require any changes to state law or any approval from state officials. (For some reason, the TLC recently tried to convince me that it would require state approval, but that is just not true.) Not only is it easy to implement, but this proposal would provide critical support for the drivers who need it most and help wheelchair users navigate the city.

It is a win for all stakeholders. Elected officials get an easy fix to a critical problem, cab drivers already doing the right thing get support they need, and New Yorkers with disabilities get greater transportation access.

Not so fast, though.

The TLC is considering a proposal – one that originated with Uber, Lyft and other for-hire vehicle providers themselves – that would create a two-year pilot program allowing companies who opt in “to provide accessible service via a central dispatch system.”

The currently-negotiated plan is that companies would provide accessible vehicles to riders who request them in under 15 minutes, 60 percent of the time in the first year and 80 percent in the second.

I know that this proposal will not result in any meaningfully positive changes for wheelchair users like myself.

Despite from the fact that these companies have a track record of promoting falsehoods when it comes to accessibility and have frequently avoided actually putting accessible vehicles on the road, there is nothing in this proposal to hold them accountable.

In fact, it looks like this so-called pilot program would amount to little more than words.

This potential compromise also does nothing to solve the TIF crisis and would likely lead to the end of the city’s accessible taxi program. This outcome would leave the many riders who depend on wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the hands of private companies, who, at the very best, would only promise to provide a car within 15 minutes 60 percent of the time.

In a city with a terrible track record on wheelchair accessibility – have a look around any subway station – ceding this ground is an unacceptable outcome that will leave New Yorkers with disabilities without a reliable method of transportation.

That is an outrage. Fortunately, a sensible solution is out there – but it is up to the TLC to do the right thing, and the time is now.

Dustin Jones is president and founder of United for Equal Access New York, a disability advocacy group.

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The City’s Bogus Compromise with Uber Would Hurt Riders with Disabilities Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Uber Scam Calls for Independent Monitor uber protest

an Uber protest (photo: @CPIsd)

The following is an open letter from David Beier, president of the Committee for Taxi Safety to Commissioner Meera Joshi of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission:

Dear Commissioner Joshi,

In light of Uber's admission that it has shortchanged New York City drivers by millions of dollars, we urge you to immediately appoint an independent monitor to ensure all drivers are paid fairly and determine whether they are owed any additional money. Failure to swiftly appoint such a monitor would leave thousands of working-class New Yorkers at risk of wage theft.

Uber claimed that its failure to adequately pay New York City drivers was the result of an accounting error, but that is hard to believe since the practice continued unchecked for more than two years. This is also not the first time that the company has wrongly deprived its drivers of wages. Uber shortchanged drivers nationwide by manipulating navigation data, according to a class action lawsuit filed last month. The company was also forced to pay back Wages to Philadelphia drivers after it made an "error' earlier this year.

These numerous cases of apparent wage theft show that Uber cannot be trusted to guarantee fair payment for its 50,000 New York City drivers. An independent monitor would address this problem by providing direct oversight to ensure that all drivers are paid in full and on time. Such a monitor should also be tasked with investigating whether Uber has withheld any other wages from its New York City drivers.

The de Blasio administration has acted aggressively to address and prevent wage theft in various industries across New York City. This matter should be treated no differently.

Very truly yours,
David Beier
President, Committee for Taxi Safety

On Twitter @CommTaxiSafety

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Uber Scam Calls for Independent Monitor Thu, 25 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000
No Surprise Uber Drivers Are Protesting taxi TLC

photo via the NYC TLC

Uber’s New York City drivers continued to rally against the company last week at City Hall — and it was no coincidence that recent reports show most Uber drivers don’t like their jobs.

In a new survey of Uber drivers published this month, less than half said they enjoy driving for Uber. Almost 40 percent of the drivers said they “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed” with the survey’s question about whether they were satisfied with Uber.

That survey included drivers from big cities across the country, but we know the major reason why New York Uber drivers are angry — 15 percent fare cuts that have made it impossible for them to make ends meet. Angry drivers here in the city have also called on Uber to stop taking a huge 20 to 25 percent cut of all their fares and add a tipping option to the app.

One might assume that a company that cares about its working-class drivers would take all these concerns seriously and address them immediately.

But Uber has shown its true colors by responding with a PR campaign aimed at convincing drivers that fare cuts are great and they should be happy with what they get.

That kind of callousness should offend all New Yorkers. We have all seen what it’s like to work for a rich company that cares more about the bottom line than the welfare of its workers. Uber’s disregard for its workers should also serve as an important reminder of why numerous driver protections — including strong wage protections — already exist in New York City’s taxi industry.

The fact is that industry regulations — developed over many years by government officials and medallion owners — ensure that taxi drivers never have to face the problems that are forcing Uber’s New York City drivers to protest and even go on strike.

No one can reduce a taxi driver’s fare because that is illegal. The government cannot take up to 25 percent of a taxi driver’s fares because that is illegal.

Additionally, the taxi industry encourages riders to tip generously by offering suggested tip amounts through the payment system mandated within each cab.

Taxi regulations are simple and straightforward. No one can blame Uber drivers for wanting the same protections in the workplace. But who should be blamed for the fact that those protections don’t exist?

The blame should really be shared between Uber and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission - the latter has failed to address this and many other double standards that exist between Uber and the taxi industry.

Since Uber has shown it is unwilling to respect its working-class drivers, even as they continue to protest, the TLC has a moral and legislative duty to act by imposing real regulations that create parity between Uber and the taxi industry.

The TLC was created not only to protect the general public but all of its stakeholders, and over the past several years the TLC has vastly increased driver protections throughout the industry — except when Uber is involved. Uber continues to receive a pass from the TLC in avoiding all of its regulations, including fares, accessibility, driver protections, vehicle choice, branding of cars for public protection, paying a state tax to support the MTA, surge pricing, and more.

Until the TLC creates an even playing field for drivers, the public, and the rest of the for-hire industry, Uber drivers will continue to be dissatisfied and struggle to earn the money they need to support themselves. That’s no longer a claim — it’s a fact.

And as long as Uber ignores drivers and the TLC fails to solve the problem, there is always another option for angry Uber drivers. We would be happy to have them join the taxi industry and gain the same wage protections that yellow cab drivers have enjoyed for so many years.

It looks like the door to Uber’s front office is closed to workers. Ours is open.

David Beier is the President of the Committee for Taxi Safety. On Twitter @CommTaxiSafety.

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No Surprise Uber Drivers Are Protesting Tue, 23 Feb 2016 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy lander car wash workers

Council Member Lander with carwash workers (photo: William Alatriste)

There are more than 1.3 million freelancers working in New York City and with the help of the City Council, these workers may soon be afforded certain protections on par with full-time workers.

Initially focused on wage protection and health benefits, Council members and advocates are also looking at legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to certain groups of workers in the “gig” economy.

The on-demand economy of such workers has mushroomed in the city with Uber and Lyft drivers, cleaners, and the more traditional writers, graphic designers, and other artists. These temporary, “for-hire” workers largely perform their various efforts without the benefits of job security, health insurance, pension buy-in, or paid sick leave. Even their wages are regularly not guaranteed. Eight out of ten freelancers have complained of being victims of late payment or non-payment of wages according to reports compiled by the Freelancers Union.

With the City Council aggressively tackling workforce issues, Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat who represents part of Brooklyn, has taken the lead in developing legislation to help people in the gig economy.

Lander is working with the New York City-based Freelancers Union to create a legislative framework for wage protection for freelance employees. In September, He appeared at a Brooklyn town hall hosted by the Freelancers Union to launch the #FreelanceIsntFree campaign, seeking to raise awareness and push for legislation.

“It has very real dark sides to it,” Lander said in a recent phone interview with Gotham Gazette, referring to freelancing and the company payment cycles that cause hardships for freelancers. “The rent is due and you still gotta put groceries on the table,” he said.

Lander believes that the best possible scenario would be a “cutting edge,” enforceable administrative solution, similar to protections guaranteed by the state Department of Labor and the Attorney General. Currently, the only legal recourse freelancers have is civil court, an expensive and time-consuming option. Lander wants to introduce a bill within the next two months.

But worker protections go beyond simply wages and Lander has found support from his colleagues for other ideas. Lander and Council Member Corey Johnson are working closely with the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance on a “drivers benefit fund” that would use a small fare surcharge to provide health benefits to for-hire drivers. After wage protections for freelancers, drafting this legislation is Lander’s next priority; and with the city looking at rules reform for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, he said this “is a good time to move it forward.”

Inevitably, workforce issues revolve in some important way around organized labor. On-demand gig workers are by their very nature unorganized. That’s where the Freelancers Union stepped in and now the City Council is moving toward creating new worker protections.

Eyeing Seattle, where a City Council member is pushing a bill to allow taxi drivers, for-hire drivers, and those from ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to unionize and exercise collective bargaining, Lander is considering a similar path in New York.

Uber’s success in the city, and its disruption of the long-standing taxi/black car marketplace, has garnered the for-hire industry new attention. The ability for drivers, who are seen as independent contractors, to unionize would change the game for thousands, and the company, of course.

Uber has added more than 20,000 cars to their service in the last three years and also handled more than 100,000 rides each day in July, four times its record from last year.  During a summer face-off between city lawmakers and Uber, the Mayor de Blasio and the City Council brought about a temporary detente by landing on a four-month study of the effects of ride-sharing companies like Uber (and no cap on the growth of the industry). The results of that study are due soon and will likely play an important role in the future of ride-sharing in the city.

An Uber representative declined to comment for this story.

The city’s efforts to create space for independent contractors to unionize may run up against federal law. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 protects the right of employees to collectively bargain with their employers. It lays down specific definitions for employees and employers which could preempt local jurisdictions from taking action since independent contractors do not qualify under the law’s criteria.

A class-action lawsuit brought by three drivers in California against Uber highlights this basic issue. The drivers are arguing for benefits as employees of the company while Uber maintains they are independent contractors who are not eligible for these benefits, and therefore should not have received class-action status. 

“Seattle’s leading the way,” said Council Member Lander. The proposed legislation in Seattle would create a precedent and likely face numerous legal challenges. Lander recognizes this fact. Even though the NLRA preempts the City Council from legislating, he believes there is room for cities to take action for workers not covered under the federal legislation. Currently there is no draft legislation but Lander said any proposal would attempt to protect workers across the on-demand economy and not just specific companies.

(He also talked of changes to the city’s human rights laws to clarify the workers covered. He said this could happen in the next few months after these initial bills.)

The Council recently took controversial action to help car wash workers unionize, but that is being challenged in court.

Council Member I. Daneek Miller is firmly in support of any proposal that would help on-demand drivers organize. As a former labor union leader, Miller’s perspective on the issue is decidedly pro-labor, and his position as chair of the Council's civil service and labor committee puts him at the front lines in addressing it. 

“The whole concept of the shared economy has to be put into perspective,” Miller told Gotham Gazette. “I don’t think it’s a sustainable model.”

He said the “irony” of the situation is that the shared, gig economy is contributing to its own demise and disempowerment -- a younger generation with few responsibilities finds flexibility and mobility attractive and then later on when people want security, they find themselves left out in the cold.

For the system to work, he said, there need to be checks and balances in the form of collective bargaining and the right to organize.

“I’m less inclined to create public policy legislation around this,” he said about the issue of unionization, perhaps recognizing the challenges involved. “We’ll let them do their job and give them the tools to support them. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of organized labor.”

by Samark Khurshid

City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy Wed, 04 Nov 2015 23:08:43 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, July 20-24 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York

Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday July 24

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: the capitol office of former State Senator and Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, scrubbed of his name after he was convicted of lying to the FBI, via Joseph Spector, Gannett Albany

libous office no name


1. Albany Corruption Drip - Sens. Sampson and Libous Convicted, Plus Additional Skelos Charges: On Tuesday Senator Dean Skelos and his son were charged with additional counts of bribery and extortion by a federal grand jury. On Wednesday Senator Tom Libous, the deputy majority leader, was found guilty of lying to an F.B.I agent and was automatically forced to give up his Senate seat. And on Friday Senator John Sampson was convicted on three federal charges and forced to resign as well.

2. Unaccompanied Minors Initiative Success: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that the initiative to provide legal representation for all undocumented immigrant children has been a “success.” Around 1,600 children have been provided with free lawyers and fourteen of them have been granted asylum.

3. Uber Politics: Uber and city officials reached an agreement announced on Wednesday that will not place a temporary cap on the for-hire vehicle industry, within which Uber is the leading operator, while the city conducts a four-month study. There is some controversy over who exactly deserves credit, or blame, depending on your perspective, for brokering the deal, with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito saying Thursday that the Council had the bill and that she was the key negotiator.

4. Fast Food Wage Board Recommends Eventual $15 Hourly Minimum: The Fast Food Wage Board called by Governor Cuomo through his Labor Department recommended fast food workers to receive a $15 an hour minimum wage by December 31, 2018 in New York City and in 2021 for the rest of New York State. The recommendation must be adopted by the Department of Labor to take effect in the fast food industry at franchises with 30 or more locations nationally.

5. Commissioner Bratton Says He Won’t Serve Two Full Terms: Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said this week that he is not expecting to remain in his post for a full two terms, should Mayor de Blasio be reelected, as he would be “70-some-odd” years old. Mayor de Blasio responded by pointing out that Pope Francis, whom he visited during a climate summit in Rome this week, is well into his seventies and having a profound impact.


  • 19,000 Staten Islanders lost power on Monday due to Con Edison outages related to the brief heat wave.

  • 40% of New York’s emissions will be reduced by 2030, promised Mayor Bill de Blasio at a climate conference in Italy organized by Pope Francis.

  • $1 billion boost through 2019 for the MTA in “better-than-expected revenues from fares, tolls and real estate taxes,” part of a larger MTA capital plan restructuring announced in pieces this week amid ongoing controversy over how the agency will be funded.

  • 4,100 minority and women owned businesses were certified in the last year, a record the de Blasio administration announced.


  • It was a good week for Republican City Council Member Steven Matteo of Staten Island, who officially became the Minority Leader of the City Council on Thursday. While the Republican caucus has just two members, it will likely add a third soon as Assembly Member Joseph Borelli is likely to replace Vincent Ignizio, who resigned his position for another job and stepped down as Minority Leader in the process. Oh, and the gig comes with a $15,000 annual bonus.

  • It was a bad week for former State Senator Tom Libous, who was convicted of lying to an FBI agent during an examination into his son’s hiring. Mr. Libous was the deputy majority leader and his departure leaves 31 elected Republican senators in the 63-member body. The Republicans still hold power, though, due to some complicated caucusing and alliances.


  • Last year this week, on July 24, 2014, the City Council unanimously passed ‘Avonte’s Law,’ requiring the DOE to evaluate the need for door alarms after Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old autistic boy, left school and drowned in the East River.

  • Twelve years ago this week, on July 23, 2003, City Council Member James Davis was shot and killed in City Hall.



  • Neil Barsky, chairman and founder of The Marshall Project, spoke about shutting down Rikers Island jails with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.
  • The Independent Budget Office released another in a series of analyses related to the city's schools, this one focused on per-pupil funding at traditional district schools and charter schools.

NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

by Erika Wang and Ben Max

The Week That Was in New York Politics, July 20-24 Fri, 24 Jul 2015 16:01:13 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 20 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

It's hot in New York City! "With dangerously hot weather expected through Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio today urged New Yorkers to take steps to protect themselves and help others who may be at increased risk from the Air Quality Alert is in effect today through 11:00 p.m. Monday." At 11 a.m. Monday in Brooklyn, de Blasio "and members of the administration will hold a press conference at the Office of Emergency Management to discuss safety in the extreme heat."

With things between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo a bit cooler, the heat is perhaps only rivaled by what's happening between car-hailing company Uber and the City.

Uber Politics: De Blasio and some in the City Council are advocating for a one-year cap limiting the number of new cars that can be added to the Uber fleet (and those of other similar companies), while the city studies the issue. The New York Times editorial board came out against the proposed cap (and reiterated support for the Move NY transportation plan), while de Blasio explained the rationale behind it in a Daily News op-ed. There could be a Council hearing on the bill this week (it's not scheduled as of publication, but could be added last minute, with a committee hearing on Wednesday, then committee and full Council votes on Thursday).

Mayor & Governor: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have not spoken directly in weeks, as each has indicated as they continue to be peppered by journalists dissecting their relationship. The governor has indicated that, as usual, members of their staffs have been in touch regularly, and that the two will speak directly when necessary.

On Saturday, de Blasio was in Crown Heights with many other elected officials and city leaders for the funeral service for Reverend Clarence Norman Sr., where the mayor made remarks.

On Sunday, de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray were in Queens attending the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival; the mayor participated in the cook-off and delivered remarks. Meanwhile, Cuomo "held the 2015 Summer Adirondack Challenge to promote summer tourism and showcase recreational opportunities in the Adirondack region...At the Adirondack Challenge, the Governor announced four vital investments to strengthen tourism in Upstate New York...the "I LOVE NY Cash and Travel" lottery ticket; $2 million for campgrounds in the Catskills and Adirondacks; a new Adirondack Park website and mobile app; and an extended, outdoors-specific I LOVE NY marketing campaign."

Monday evening, de Blasio "will depart New York City and fly to Rome, Italy to attend Pope Francis' event, "Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of The Cities." He'll return on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the governor could be in the spotlight this week as the fast food worker wage board that he ordered the department of labor to convene is set to issue a recommendation on the minimum wage Wednesday. It appears the wage board could recommend $15 per hour and that the state labor commissioner could accept that recommendation, thus putting pressure on the legislature, especially Senate Republicans, to move the state's minimum wage to $15/hour.

Police Reform: Criminal justice reform is an essential issue for any governor and mayor, and things have been especially intense for Cuomo and de Blasio. The governor recently made a move whereby Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office will take charge of investigations of police killings of unarmed civilians. Friday was the one-year anniversary of Eric Garner's death. The mayor and other city officials participated in a memorial service on Tuesday and reform activists marched and rallied at various points throughout the week and weekend. While the mayor touts NYPD reform, including officer training, some activists say he's done little to address systemic problems. Many await the results of the federal investigation into Garner's death as well as the NYPD's review (NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has indicated he will not be releasing the department review until the federal probe has concluded).

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

At 10:15 Monday on Long Island, “Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will announce a new push to ban plastic microbeads in personal care products.”

At 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will make an announcement on the “Unaccompanied Minors Initiative.” At 5:30 p.m., Mark-Viverito, Council Member Daneek Miller, and other Council Members will host an Eid ul-Fitr celebration for the end of Ramadan.

Also at 11 a.m., “Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will join The Bronx Dominican Parade Committee Directors Felipe Febles and Rosa Ayala to officially announce the celebrations and events that will lead up to the 26th Annual Gran Parada Dominicana de El Bronx  (Bronx Dominican Day Parade). The parade “will take place on Sunday, July 26th, along the Grand Concourse from East Tremont to East 166th Street.”

Monday signals a busier week for the City Council than we’ve seen yet in July - leading to the lone July Stated Meeting on Thursday. Monday’s Council schedule:

  • At 9:30 a.m. the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet on six land use applications - all sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield.
  • At 11 a.m. the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will examine a land use application on the Bank of the Manhattan Company Building.
  • At 12 p.m. the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet on an introduction that would require the New York City Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to “consider the potential impact of climate change on public and private telecommunications infrastructure.”
  • At 1 p.m. the Subcommittee on Planning, Disposition and Concessions will meet on three different land use applications for Aerospace Metals and the Acacia Gardens.

City Council Member Corey Johnson and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are hosting “Rat Academy...a free training on safe and effective methods for rat prevention in your building and neighborhood,” 6 p.m. at Hudson Guild's Elliot Center.

At 6 p.m. Monday there will be a forum hosted by the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office on Mitchell-Lama housing. Updates will be delivered by Mitchell-Lamas staff followed by small group discussions.

At 6:30 p.m. a special “police accountability working group” meeting hosted by Brooklyn Movement Center to train community members in “Cop Watch” and “Know Your Rights.” This event is also sponsored by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and People’s Justice Cop Watch Alliance.

As mentioned, Mayor de Blasio leaves Monday evening for Rome. He will visit the Vatican for an event, “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of The Cities,” at which he will be giving a speech on OneNYC and joining other Mayors for an audience with the Pope. Mayor de Blasio will be returning on Wednesday, July 22.

According to NY1's Zack Fink, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will embark Tuesday on a tour of Central New York. Heastie will reportedly visit Syracuse, Watertown, Utica and Madison County over the course of the week.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday there will be a “symposium on innovative procurement” hosted by Civic Hall. Minerva Tantoco, New York City’s Chief Technology Officer and Bryan Sivak, former-CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be among those attending the event at Civic Hall.

Tuesday at the City Council: at 11 a.m. the Committee on Land Use will meet at City Hall.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board is offering a compliance training session for the 2017 election cycle at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. “Compliance trainings cover campaign finance laws and CFB rules. C-SMART trainings provide an overview of the CFB’s web-based application, which campaigns must use to manage and disclose financial activity. The candidate, treasurer, campaign manager or other individual with significant managerial control over the campaign is legally required to attend both a Compliance and a C-SMART training.”

At 6 p.m. there will be a forum on the Lower East Side hosted by the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office as part of the “Community-Police Dialogues” series. There will be an opportunity for group discussion. 

At 8 a.m. City & State NY will host “New York Moves: Transportation Conference,” a discussion on all different forms of transportation in New York and “where the biggest investments will be made.” Anthony R. Foxx, the United States Secretary of Transportation; Council Members Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez; Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and Elizabeth M. McCarthy, Chief Financial Officer of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are a few of the speakers.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, "American Elections at the Crossroads: How do we restore voters' faith in elections and get them back to the polls?" featuring keynote remarks by Ann Ravel, chair of the Federal Election Commission, and co-hosted by Brennan Center for Justice, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Committee for Economic Development. Other speakers will include Rose Gill Hearn, Chair of the New York City Campaign Finance Board; Mike Petro, Vice President of the Committee for Economic Development; Letitia James, New York City Public Advocate and City Council Members Eric Ulrich and Brad Lander.  

At 9:30 a.m. the Community Service Society will host a training on “surviving in public housing,” to help tenants in public housing keep their apartments. Compliance with NYCHA lease and filing a grievance are among topics that will be discussed.

Wednesday at the City Council:

  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Aging will meet about a resolution “requiring banking organizations to provide, at minimum, the immediately preceding six months of financial documents following a request for such financial documents to help fight financial exploitation of older adults.”
  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Parks and Recreation examines two bills, one on renaming two thoroughfares and public places and the other mandating the Department of Parks and Recreation to “create an annual report on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessible design.”

At 2:30 p.m. at the Department of Health in Manhattan, the state department of labor fast food wage board is set to meet, likely to announce its recommendations. As there have been for other meetings of the wage board, a rally led by workers and their allies is planned for right beforehand.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board is offering a C-SMART training session for the 2017 election cycle at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. “Compliance trainings cover campaign finance laws and CFB rules. C-SMART trainings provide an overview of the CFB’s web-based application, which campaigns must use to manage and disclose financial activity. The candidate, treasurer, campaign manager or other individual with significant managerial control over the campaign is legally required to attend both a Compliance and a C-SMART training.” 

At 6:30 p.m. City Council Member Brad Lander will host a town hall meeting on climate change.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Attorney General Schneiderman, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer co-host a “Know Your Rights” forum on co-op/condo/loft procedures. This forum is held in cooperation with Council Member Chin, Johnson, and Mendez; State Senator Hoylman; Assemblymember Glick and Congressmembers Maloney, Nadler and Velazquez.

At 7 p.m. there will be a civic hacknight in Brooklyn. The Code for America Brigade program, Microsoft Civic and Accela are event partners.

At 8 a.m. Thursday City & State NY hosts NYPD Commissioner, William Bratton for a public conversation on policing in New York City.

Thursday at the City Council:

  • At 9:30 a.m. the Committee on General Welfare will meet on two proposed bills - one requires the Department of Social Services to "provide semiannual reports to the council regarding referrals to adult protective services" and the other mandates "providing adult protective services training for certain employees of the city of New York."
  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Finance will meet to approve "new designation and changes in the designation of certain organizations to receive funding in the Expense Budget."
  • At 10:30 a.m. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet as a continuation of their July 15 recessed meeting.
  • At 1:30 p.m. in City Hall there will be a Stated Meeting. This will be the first stated meeting since the Budget passed, on June 26.

At 6:30 there will be a forum on preventing super-scrapers. This event is co-sponsored by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; State Senators Liz Krueger and Jose Serrano; Assembly members Rebecca Seawright, Dan Quart and Robert Rodriguez; and City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos.

Friday and the weekend
As is often the case at this point in the week, especially during the summer, we don't have events listed for Friday or the weekend, but as the week gets going we're sure to see some.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Erika Wang and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 20 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 23:39:57 +0000