Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday nominated Jeffrey Roth, a seasoned city bureaucrat, to lead the embattled Taxi & Limousine Commission.
The appointment comes as the TLC grapples with a tragic series of driver suicides and as the government looks to further tax and regulate the industry, which has been upended since e-hail services like Uber and Lyft entered the market over the last decade.
“[Roth’s] depth of experience in city government will serve New Yorkers well as we continue to root out practices that prey on medallion owners and help hardworking drivers feed their families,” de Blasio said in a statement. “I look forward to his help as we grow our wheelchair accessible fleet and expand efforts to combat discrimination and service refusals more than ever before.”
Roth, who serves in the New York Army National Guard, had previously worked as the deputy commissioner for policy and external affairs at the TLC. He was also an assistant commissioner at the FDNY. His appointment is pending City Council approval.
Roth will be vetted at a Council Rules Committee hearing and will need to be approved by a majority of the full Council.
Driver advocates and industry groups welcomed the appointment. Bhairavi Desai, the founding member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, remembered Roth from his previous stint at the TLC and described him as passionate and policy-focused.
“I found him genuinely interested in drivers. He thinks as a policy person and does not appear to be very political, which is always better,” Desai said. “To be honest with the amount of power that companies in this industry have, you need someone who will be a sheriff, and not a politician in that role.”
The Independent Drivers Guild, which represents app-based drivers and is partially funded by Uber, looks forward to working with Roth to improve working conditions and protect pay for thousands of drivers, according to its spokeswoman, Moira Muntz.
“The challenges facing for-hire vehicle drivers in our city are daunting, and Jeffrey Roth seems prepared for the task,” Muntz said.
Roth is slated to take the helm of the TLC as it implements major policy changes. This summer, the TLC will craft new rules that permanently extend a cap on e-hail vehicles licenses and that add “cruising” penalties designed to disincentive companies from allowing vehicles to remain empty in Manhattan’s core.
Protections from e-hail companies suddenly deactivating or cutting ties with drivers as well as curbing predatory leasing and promoting debt forgiveness for medallion taxi drivers are additional top-of-the-docket items for Roth, according to Desai.
“We’re still in the midst of a crisis, and we still need to work to stabilize the industry for all sectors,” Desai said.
Roth said he was pleased to take on such a pivotal role.
“I am honored to be nominated to lead the TLC, which regulates such an integral component of this City’s transportation network,” Roth said in a statement. “I look forward to working to fulfill the Mayor’s vision for improving the health and vitality of this industry; and working to protect the drivers, passengers, and visitors of NYC who rely on these services every day.”