Car squawk! Uber slams councilman over livery law

Targeted advertising: This anti-Levin ad also appeared on a Brooklyn Paper editor’s Facebook page.
Community News Group / Ruth Brown

It is an über attack!

Controversial internet car service Uber is taking on a councilman it thinks doesn’t support its service, using its inventory of digital addresses to send e-mails to every customer who lives in his district.

The internet taxi company Uber said that it sent an e-mail denouncing Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) on Wednesday, demanding they nag the councilman over his sponsorship of a bill that would severely limit the amount of new Uber cars allowed in the city next year. All riders who had signed up for the Uber app and live in Levin’s district got the e-mail, according to the company.

“Your councilman, Stephen Levin, is sponsoring a bill that would limit your access to affordable, reliable Uber rides,” read the e-mail. “Tell Councilman Levin to withdraw this bill and support riders like you.”

Sit on it: Councilman Steve Levin in the days when he drove a old Honda. Uber says he's cramping its style.
Community Newspaper Group / Laura Gottesdiener

Uber, which has been pushing its way into Brooklyn since 2011 and recently offered riders $2.75 trips along the L train line, is fighting back against a bill that Levin (D–Williamsburg) and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D–Manhattan) proposed yesterday that would drastically limit the number of new livery cars that can get licenses in the city during a 12-month period. Companies with large fleets would be allowed to ramp up by one percent of the current number of cars. Since Uber now has about 18,000 licensed cars in the city, that means it would only be able to add about 180 more over the next 12 months — a significant cut for a company that has been registering hundreds of cars a month.

The one-percent plan comes on the heels of another Levin bill that demands a study of how the influx of internet-based car service could affect city’s air quality and already congested streets. Levin claims the bill will get the study done without the expected additional 25,000 cars that would have been added to the city’s roster.

“If left unchecked, it would render the study obsolete by the time it comes out,” he said.

An Uber spokesman said the bill would be bad for the riders looking for easier ways to travel around the city.

The uber move: The internet car company Uber sent out emails to its customers in Councilman Steve Levin’s district to try to rally them to side against Levin’s bill proposals that would hurt the company’s growth.

“Unfortunately, this would reverse improvements made by Uber and others to our transportation system and most notably, stand between New Yorkers looking for work and their opportunity to make a better living,” said spokesman Matt Wing.

Levin said he was only interested in making sure his constituents got the real scoop on the bill.

“This keeps the status quo intact,” he said. “There will not be less Uber cars on the road. If anything, this will be a more efficient use of the system.”

The letter angered some customers in Levin’s district who deemed the e-mail rude and vowed to never use the service again.

Bass instincts: Councilman and bass player Steve Levin struck a sour note with Uber, and the car-service juggernaught struck back.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“For Uber to throw its marketing muscle around like this seems remarkably uninformed and insensitive,” said Michael Finelli-Brown, a Greenpoint resident who said he used the service 50 or 60 times before he got the e-mail on Wednesday afternoon. “It shows an arrogance and I do not want to give my money to companies that are insensitive to the needs of the community.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

More from Around New York

>