Town Must Adapt to New Taxi Law

New York State now has purview over Uber, other ‘e-hailing’ companies
Taxis operated by Uber drivers and others working for similar services through which riders use a smartphone app to summon cars will be under the jurisdiction of state laws now being crafted. Morgan McGivern

Now that New York State has adopted legislation calling for the state, and only the state, to regulate Uber, Lyfft, and other “e-hailing companies,” as Nancylynn Thiele, an East Hampton Town attorney, described the taxi services that are summoned through smartphone apps, the Town of East Hampton must revise its taxi regulations.

Speaking at a town board meeting Tuesday, Ms. Thiele said transportation network companies, which are referred to as T.N.C.s, must be excluded from the town’s definition of taxicab. She also pointed out other necessary changes. 

The town now requires all cab companies to meet certain criteria. Included among them are a requirement that each company obtain a business license and licenses for each vehicle, and that would-be drivers undergo fingerprinting and background checks.

Even after the state takes regulatory authority over Uber and other ride-hailing services, the town will be allowed to apply parking related restrictions, under which conventional taxicabs must operate, to them. Those strictures, such as one prohibiting drivers from sleeping overnight in cars, will be moved to the vehicles and traffic section of the town code.

State officials have until July, or 90 days from the adoption of the state law, to get statewide regulations in place. In the interim, all the town’s taxicab regulations will continue to apply. A town law that requires taxicab companies to maintain offices in East Hampton, and another that requires the cars used for these businesses to be company-owned, had essentially ruled out ride-hailing services here.

The state already has adopted restrictions stating that ride-hailing companies may not solicit riders other than through their apps and may not accept cash fares. Transportation companies in East Hampton may hold a state license as a ride-hailing business, or a town taxi license, but not both.

Tuesday’s board meeting was marked by complaints from Joe Loffreno, a Montauk resident, who argued that the town fee for a taxi driver’s license, $200, was too high. The board, which had been considering resetting taxi fees, agreed later on Tuesday to reset all fees related to taxicab licensing so that they are the same as in Southampton Town. That will lower the driver’s fee to $100. Anyone who already paid that fee this year will receive a credit for the difference once the new fee structure is in place.

. “So you’re going to approach us with guns,” he asked, saying “show us your taxi licenses. Doesn’t that sound a little like mob tactics?”

Mr. Loffreno, who was a perennial Town Hall critic during the former McGintee administration and who appeared at Town Hall on Tuesday with a daughter who also drives a cab, repeatedly demanded to be told where the fee money goes, and was told it went into the town’s general fund. He was asked several times to relinquish the podium, but held on until Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell asked whether it would be necessary to call the police.

Town Hall critic during the former McGintee administration and who appeared at Town Hall on Tuesday with a daughter who also drives a cab, repeatedly demanded to be told where the fee money goes, and was told it went into the town’s general fund. He was asked several times to relinquish the podium, but held on until Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell asked whether it would be necessary to call the police.

After leaving the meeting room, Mr. Loffreno and his daughter questioned Ms. Thiele and members of the town clerk’s staff until Ms. Thiele did summon the police, who asked them to leave.