Gov. Andrew Cuomo today came down on the side of e-hail app company Uber in its battle against Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying that the mayor’s proposal to cap the company’s growth would impair job creation and potentially have “statewide ramifications.”
Speaking on the Capital Pressroom radio show, Mr. Cuomo attacked Mr. de Blasio’s proposed legislation limiting the increase of for-hire cars to 201 for the next year to combat congestion as inimical to economic growth. Mr. Cuomo suggested that the mayor’s proposal would hurt workers in a booming sector of the economy.
“Uber is one of these great inventions, start-ups, of this new economy. And it’s taking off like fire through dry grass. And it’s offering a great service for people, and it’s giving people jobs. I don’t think government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth. I don’t believe you can restrict job growth,” he said.
The bill’s official purpose is to temporarily slow Uber’s explosive expansion—the company had hoped to bring 10,000 new vehicles on the road—to allow the city to conduct a study on the company’s impact on traffic congestion in Manhattan. But Mr. de Blasio has increasingly turned to assertions that Uber may mistreat its workers and customers, and the company has alleged the legislation is really a gift to the yellow cab medallion holders who have donated to the mayor’s campaign.
The governor brushed away Mr. de Blasio’s argument that Uber exploits its drivers, who are all independent contractors, many of whom are using personal vehicles—even though the company skims 20 percent from every fare they collect.
“The Uber drivers are doing very well. I think they’re making more than the governor of the state of New York,” Mr. Cuomo said, laughing.
Mr. Cuomo added he hoped to meet with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a close de Blasio ally who has spoken favorably of the bill without endorsing it outright, to “urge deliberation” over the measure. The Council could potentially vote on the proposal as early as tomorrow.
The governor suggested that Uber and Lyft franchises would react to the legislation by relocating to Long Island and Westchester, rather than having their drivers commute into the city. This, he speculated, would result in the city throwing up legal roadblocks to out-of-town cabs and then similar retaliatory moves from adjacent counties.
“I think it’s much more complicated than we think, and I don’t think that is going to accomplish the goal, and it could have statewide ramifications,” Mr. Cuomo said, despite confessing that he had not read the bill. “If you said, ‘well, the Nassau cars can’t operate in Manhattan and the Manhattan cars can’t operate in Nassau,’ now it’s my problem.”
The comments contrast with the governor’s remarks last week that he would be staying out of the fight and “reviewing” Uber’s growth and its attendant issues. Mr. Cuomo’s once passive-aggressive power struggle with the mayor has recently devolved into outright public relations warfare, with Mr. de Blasio last month accusing the governor of seeking cynical political “revenge” and embarking on a “vendetta” against anyone he views as a rival.
Mr. de Blasio’s office responded by accusing the governor of “manufacturing pretexts” for opposing the proposal, noting that only vehicles licensed by the city Taxi and Limousine Commission can transport people in and around the five boroughs, thus preventing the scenario Mr. Cuomo imagined. Uber cars in New York City are required to have a TLC license.
“The issues here are serious for our city—protecting workers and passengers, fair service for people with disabilities, supporting public transit, addressing rising congestion,” said spokesman Wiley Norvell.
However, the governor is just the latest Democrat to come out against the car cap, as city Comptroller Scott Stringer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams all announcing their opposition yesterday. Several council members have also said they believe the bill will hurt constituents who either use Uber or work for the company.