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NYC’s Uber, Lyft restrictions challenged by civil rights groups

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Civil rights group say that putting a cap on ride-hailing services will adversely impact people of color

Via Spencer Pratt/Getty Images

Some civil rights groups are joining the fight with ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to oppose a proposed cap on new licenses for for-hire vehicles. The New York Times recently spoke with some groups like the N.A.A.C.P. and Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, which said that the cap on new for-hire vehicles would adversely impact Africans Americans and Latinos, who are often refused service by the city’s yellow cab industry, according to the groups.

Early next month, the New York City Council is expected to vote on a series of bills that address the impact of services like Uber and Lyft on the city. Among those bills is imposing a one-year freeze on new licenses for such vehicles. During that time, the city will further study the impact of these services, and if specific neighborhoods throughout the city—particularly those in the outerboroughs—are further inconvenienced by the cap.

The proposal does not have universal backing at the City Council though. Donovan Richards, Jr. who represents eastern Queens, told the Times that he was skeptical about backing the cap before he heard from the yellow cab industry, and how they planned to address the concerns people of color have about taxis. Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, said he was against the cap before the city had actually completed a study of the impact of fire-hire vehicles first.

The proposal has of course received a sharp rebuke from ride-hailing services.

“This would take New York back to an era of standing on the corner and hoping to get a ride,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “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.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is pushing for the cap to pass, said he understood the concerns of civil rights groups but wanted to stress that the existing vehicles wouldn’t be taken off the streets—only the addition of new ones would be stopped for a year-long period to examine their full impact.