By Jason Lee and Kevin Rate
A decision on a proposal that would require Uber partners to register their business was postponed by the Southampton Village Council on March 22 until the next council meeting on April 12.
The council decided to wait to give Uber a chance to weigh in on the legislation. An Uber representative that mediates the company’s relations with local governments met Friday with Councilman Stan Glinka, who proposed this legislation.
“We want to wait to see what Uber comes back to us with. They gave us an outline with nothing legal or binding saying what they would stipulate, but we want to give them the benefit of the doubt,” Glinka said.
If the legislation passes Uber representatives would have to register at the town clerk’s office in order to operate in Southampton. The combined cost of registering a livery business and the licensing fee for both vehicle and driver is $1000. Currently, all taxi drivers in the state including Uber drivers are required to have a license from the taxi limousine commission (TLC), which costs about $220.
“These proposed changes are an attempt to protect local taxi interests at the expense of hard-working Uber driver-partners who are trying to earn a living on the platform,” Alix Anfang, an Uber spokesperson said. “There is an unquestionable need and demand for Uber in Southampton because taxi service has been historically unreliable.”
“If I can’t pick up in Manhattan why can [Uber drivers] pick up in Southampton?” Bryan DaParma, the owner of Hometown taxi in Southampton said. “If they had to pay the same amount I had to pay for licensing they’d have hard time competing.”
“It’s hard for the local people that stay here, when the summer time starts the Uber [drivers] come,” Ahmad Raza, a driver from Southampton Taxi said. “This is the main problem because we stay the whole year; pay the bills, feed the kids…”
Glinka’s legislation is currently more sympathetic to the concerns of local taxis companies. “There is no justification of why companies that do business in town should have to pay a permit fee and other businesses don’t have to,” Glinka said.
“I’m willing to pay but I need protection,” an Uber driver living in Southampton who wished to stay anonymous, said. The driver argued that Uber has terminated drivers who made open comments to the media in the past. “I don’t want to compete with 3,000 weirdos from the city.”
East Hampton passed legislation last summer that had an effect on Uber’s presence in the area, with one added difference.
“If you want to operate in the Town of East Hampton you actually have to have a physical address for your company in East Hampton,” Glinka said. “That was huge because they were basically blocking them from coming in.”
Southampton’s legislation won’t require drivers to be local so Uber drivers won’t actually be banned. They will just be held to the same license requirements as local taxi businesses, Glinka said.
“Regardless if Uber is banned here or not, it does not affect my operation because I am a legitimate independent contractor,” the anonymous Uber driver said. “If Uber is allowed to work this season, the taxis should be relaxed because Uber cars are not allowed to hassle people on the streets, like they did last year.”