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Uber, Lyft Drivers Stage Protest On Brooklyn Bridge, FDR Drive

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers staged a protest Tuesday morning across the Brooklyn Bridge.

They made their way up Manhattan's East Side, protesting changes in their pay and working conditions.

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A lot of the drivers lined the streets, holding signs that say things like "Solidarity."

Rideshare vehicles flooded the FDR Drive early Tuesday morning, bringing traffic in some parts of Manhattan to a dead stop. The drivers are protecting recent Uber and Lyft app changes, which they say makes it harder for them to earn a living.

"Working all day to make a living, all day. Leave my house at like, six in the morning. Come back six in the afternoon, like, 12 sometimes," said driver Mamadou Diallo. He says it's the only way for him to pay the bills.

"And you still behind on the bills. And you still behind on the bills," he said.

Uber Drivers Protest
Uber drivers staged a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge on Sept. 17, 2019. (credit: CBS2)

Diallo joined hundreds of other drivers making their way from Navy Street and Park Avenue in Brooklyn all the way up to Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side. They're pushing back against a cruising cap.

"It's not going to give us the flexibility to go online and work whenever we are working," said driver Muneeb Rehman.

The cap means apps like Uber and Lyft limit access to the driver app in areas and times of low customer demand. Companies blame the move on utilization rules passed by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission. The focus there was to limit the number of rideshare drivers on the road because of congestion.

Drivers who had been onboarded at high rates are now paying for it.

"I just got a $50,000 loan on my car. Imagine they tell me what time to work, and what time not to work. How I'm going to pay my car? How I'm going to support my family? I don't think this is right. If they think too many drivers, why TLC keep hiring new drivers? Stop it," said Diallo.

But the TLC blames the apps. Acting TLC Commissioner Bill Heinzen released a statement saying "Until we took needed action last year, it has been Uber and Lyft's business model to oversaturate the market while promising drivers that they could succeed despite these companies' stacking the deck against them.  TLC and City Council put in place smart policies to address the problems these companies created, and they are finally being forced to experiment with ways to run their businesses in an environment of accountability. We will continue to fight on behalf of drivers until they are able to make ends meet."

"Because of the TLC regulations, we're forced to make changes to the Lyft app to not allow drivers to be online if there isn't enough demand for rides. The TLC's approach is bad public policy, and we are working diligently to support drivers during this change," a Lyft spokesman said.

"We have said for months that the unintended consequences of regulations will be less driver flexibility, and the changes to the app are a direct result of the Mayor's regulations," Uber said in a statement.

So far, there's been no word from the mayor on the issue.

A lot of those drivers have moved to Uber's officers on 28th Street as they continue their protests.

The TLC also argues that wait times have also decreased in neighborhoods across the city. It says it has seen decreases in average times of up to 22 percent between 2018 and 2019.

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