By Darwin Yanes and Jim Lo
Suffolk County legislators met on Monday to discuss a proposed moratorium by legislator Bridget Fleming to put a six-month ban on ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.
A brief vote was held in the meeting, but the committee could not come to a concrete decision. They ultimately chose to send the bill to a full legislative vote without recommendation which is expected to be held on March 6 in Riverhead. The county is using the moratorium as leverage to gain share of the $24 million in revenue from a 4 percent surcharge on ride sharing.
“Uber is our income , without uber we cannot survive” Nephtalie Numa, an Uber driver and a mother of two, said. Numa spoke at the meeting which gave the audience a chance to voice their concerns. Numa’s speech ended with her firmly staring at the committee members.
There are 7,000 active Uber drivers and 60,000 active Uber riders in Suffolk County as of today.
“We help the local economy by purchasing gasoline, food, and maintenance,” Orlando Barros, a 61 years old Uber driver, said.“I was raised here, I pay taxes as well.”
New York State agreed to allow Uber and Lyft to operate on Long Island on June 28th, 2017. This agreement has prevented local government from regulating these ride-hailing services and receiving any taxes implemented on Uber. Background checks and proper licensing fees for Uber drivers are also conducted at a state level.
“Ride sharing services are free to operate without any local control,” Fleming Legislator, said.
Suffolk county has been short on revenue, which is the reason public transportation has been the focus of many budget cuts in recent years. State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. said that eight bus routes were cut in 2016, most of these routes were in South Fork, North Fork, and Eastern Brookhaven.
“We need those taxes to improve public transportation in Suffolk county,” Fred Thiele Jr, Assemblyman of New York State, said.
The four-percent tax on ride-hailing services is currently used by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to improve New York subway systems and Long Island Rail Road.
“There are no LIRR upstate, the money should only go towards rebuilding our bus systems,” Paul Pressman, a retired US Custom Importer, said.
The Long Island Railroad would not operate upstate but Metro North does.
Suffolk county was forced to either opt in or opt out. Opting in would mean that Suffolk county would have ride-hailing services with no local regulation. If the county chose to opt out, then ride-hailing services wouldn’t be allowed in Suffolk county.
“It is not my intention to deprive anyone of income, it is my intention to restart this conversation,” Fleming said.
Uber is willing to join Suffolk county in talks with Albany to resolve the situation Josh Gold, Senior manager in Public Affairs of Uber, said. Legislator Fleming also agreed to open dialogues on ways to solve the dilemma.
“We would just like to see some money come back to our community,” Fred Thiele Jr, Assemblyman of New York State, said.