City Hall, Ride-Hailing Service Spar Over Who Got The Better End Of The Agreement

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio cleared the air Thursday about his administration’s surprise deal with ride-hailing service Uber.

The agreement was reached Wednesday, on the eve of a City Council vote on a measure that would have capped Uber’s growth at 1 percent for a year while the company’s impact on traffic and the environment was studied.

Under the deal, there will be no cap on the number of new Uber drivers during a four-month study period. In return, the company agreed to share data on the location and duration of rides and negotiate a possible surcharge to help pay for mass transit.

However, in an interview with CBS2’s Marcia Kramer late Thursday, de Blasio served notice that he still intends to play hard ball with the hard-charging company.

“Uber is a multi-billion dollar corporation that is looking out for its own interests and its own profitability,” the mayor said. “There will be rules. I don’t care how much money they have. There will be rules.”

During an interview with “CBS This Morning” earlier in the day, de Blasio said there needs to be valid regulation.

“I think the mindset at Uber is they should be able to do as they wish and we don’t apply that standard to any company. We say government regulation matters,” de Blasio said. “I think there’s a resolute feeling among mayors all over this country and this world that no private company gets to dictate the rules to government. We have the public’s interest in mind and so we’re going to strike that balance.”

The mayor said the city will retain all its options, including a possible cap, at the end of the study.

“What’s good about this understanding is it’s going to allow us to study the situation with some real limits in place, and we don’t take any option off the table,” de Blasio said. “If we ultimately believe there needs to be a cap or some kind of additional regulation, we’ll do that. But for now we have a chance to study and see what the real impact of this growing industry is on our city.”

Yellow cab drivers held a demonstration on the steps of City Hall, protesting the mayor’s change of stance on Uber, Kramer reported.

“In Uberland, only they come first,” one driver said.

Yellow cab drivers feel they were stabbed in the back by de Blasio, who took over $600,000 in campaign contributions from them, Kramer reported.

“We’re deeply disappointed in the political system that we feel has really failed us all along. We’re sad that the mayor backed off and we’re angry,” said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

During his appearance on “CBS This Morning,” the mayor insisted his opposition to Uber had nothing to do with campaign contributions, Kramer reported.

“If any company came along and said, ‘Trust us, we’re going to take care of the public’s interest,’ I don’t think we would accept that on its face,” de Blasio said. “What we’re saying here is that we need that balance.”

Many Internet headlines portrayed the deal as a defeat for de Blasio.

“It’s another in a string of minor but unfortunate setbacks for the mayor,” political consultant Gerry O’Brien said. “This is one of the few growth areas in New York City’s economy. Why would you do anything to stifle it? Makes no sense.”

During his interview with Kramer on Thursday, the mayor spoke as if he got what he was looking for from Uber.

Kramer: “Mayor, I wonder if this is the deal you wanted all along?”

De Blasio: “I think it’s quite clear we did achieve the things we were talking to Uber about just a few weeks ago.”

Mayoral aides said the things Uber agreed to — a congestion study, talks about accessibility for the disabled, fees for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — were what was on the table 10 days ago.

But industry sources told Kramer there is one major difference: back then City Hall insisted on imposing a job cap before the study was done. City Hall had to cave on that to end the costly battle.

Uber declined an interview on Thursday, but officials sent out an email tweaking City Hall. They pointed out that nearly 50,000 people emailed City Hall and the City Council to support Uber, and that in the last week a record 35,000 New Yorkers had signed up as Uber riders, Kramer reported.

Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo is taking a step back from comments he made on Wednesday on what role he played in the deal struck between the city and Uber.

On WCBS 880, Cuomo made it sound like he played a role, saying “well I called the speaker of the City Council,” WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

But on Thursday, during an appearance on The Capitol Pressroom Radio Show, the governor seemed to back away from his comment.

“I did not play a role in the deal,” Cuomo said.

The City Council still has to authorize the study to examine congestion related to ride-hailing services.

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