E-bikes denied, ride-hailing companies cruising and anti-Semitism in NYC

Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill legalizing electric bikes and scooters.
Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill legalizing electric bikes and scooters.
Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill legalizing electric bikes and scooters.

E-bikes denied, ride-hailing companies cruising and anti-Semitism in NYC

Rounding up the week’s political news
December 27, 2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has attacked President Donald Trump on many fronts, including his now-shuttered Trump Foundation and cuts to food stamps. But the governor’s latest battleground seems … a little odd. Earlier this year, state Sen. Liz Krueger introduced a bill that she recently described as her “least substantive or controversial” piece of legislation ever. It would have allowed federal judges to officiate weddings in New York. Cuomo vetoed the bill because some of those judges were appointed by Trump, so he could not “in good conscience” approve the legislation. The decision confused Democrats and Republicans alike, with state Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy calling the governor’s action “petty.”

E-bike legislation vetoed

A bill to legalize electric bikes and scooters is going nowhere fast after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed it on Thursday. The legislation had been in limbo for months after it overwhelmingly passed both houses of the state Legislature. The reason: Cuomo wasn’t satisfied with the safety provisions in the bill. One of the big sticking points is that it didn’t include a helmet requirement, something that Cuomo called common sense. But bike advocates say such requirements deter people from using bikes, which ultimately makes the endeavor less safe for everyone. Cuomo’s decision angered advocates for immigrant delivery workers, many of whom use e-bikes for their jobs and are often the targets of police crackdowns on the vehicles. The NYPD said it had issued more than 1,000 summonses for operating e-bikes and e-scooters this year.

Uber and Lyft cruising again

Uber and Lyft got a nice Christmas present from a state Supreme Court justice on Monday. The court struck down a New York City rule, which would have gone into effect in February, to cap the amount of time a driver could spend buzzing around Manhattan south of 96th Street without passengers. After the city imposed the rule over the summer, Uber took the city to court. Lyft soon followed with its own lawsuit. In his ruling, the judge said the city’s definition of excessive cruising was arbitrary and had “no rational basis.” Unfortunately for Uber and Lyft, the cap on the number of ride-hailing cars permitted in the city still stands despite Uber suing to get that law thrown out.

Anti-Semitic attacks during Hanukkah

New York City has been plagued by a series of anti-Semitic attacks this week during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. As of Friday, there had been as many as seven attacks reported. Cuomo ordered a probe into one assault by the state Hate Crimes Task Force, while also condemning anti-Semitism. Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in on Friday, tweeting that the NYPD would increase its presence in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Prison labor and presidential campaigns

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in hot water this week after it was reported that his presidential campaign used prison labor to make campaign calls. A third party vendor used by Bloomberg’s campaign subcontracted with a New Jersey company that uses prison labor at two of its call centers in Oklahoma. Soon after the news broke, Bloomberg acknowledged that the report from The Intercept was true, but he had not been aware of the situation until Monday, when the news site contacted the campaign regarding the story. Bloomberg said he immediately cut ties with the vendor once he learned about the subcontracted prison labor.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.