New York Post – by Michael Gartland
A year after then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to “destroy” the yellow-cab industry, his allies and surrogates are pouring energy and cash into ride-sharing ventures fiercely opposed by New York’s hacks and medallion owners.
Lyft — the ride-share startup known for its “suggested donations” and giant pink moustaches affixed to the grills of its cars — got a cool $60 million last year from Andreessen Horowitz LLC, a venture capital firm that counts Bloomberg LP as a key investor. Bloomberg LP poured “tens of millions” into Andreessen, a source said.
Lyft announced Andreessen’s cash infusion on May 23, 2013 — just a day after The Post’s Page Six reported on the billionaire mayor’s curse-filled tirade to taxi-fleet owner Gene Freidman, who had just successfully beaten Hizzoner in court over the city’s planned-but-panned “Taxi of Tomorrow.”
“Come January 1, when I am out of office, I am going to destroy your f–king industry!” the mayor told Freidman.
Bloomberg LP spokesman Ty Trippet refused to divulge the total investment the firm made in Andreessen but flatly denied the money went to Lyft. A source said the investment came in 2009.
“Our funds were not part of Andreessen Horowitz’s funding of Lyft,” Trippet said.
The other ride-sharing service, Uber, which is valued at $18.2 billion and already operating in the city, employs Bradley Tusk, one of Bloomberg’s closest advisers, as a consultant.
Under the mayor, Tusk helped consolidate support for a term-limits extension, which paved the way for Bloomberg’s third term. He also served as the billionaire’s campaign manager for that successful 2009 re-election bid. Tusk declined to comment.
“It’s no secret how the former mayor felt about the taxi industry,” said Tweeps Phillips, head of the Committee for Taxi Safety, an advocate for yellow cabbies. “What’s confusing and a concern to the small businesses I represent is that he would knowingly or unknowingly invest in a company that’s running roughshod over the rules.”
Instead of hailing cabs, riders can summon Uber and Lyft cars with their smartphones. Drivers operate their personal vehicles, which are much cheaper than buying taxi medallions that can cost more than $1 million.
Critics claim both services are under-regulated, making them less safe.
Lyft only requires its drivers be 21 or over, have an in-state license and plates, a four-door car, insurance and a clean driving record.
Uber’s drivers do have city Taxi and Limousine Commission licenses, but fares vary depending on “surge-pricing,” which critics say is gouging.
“[Lyft and Uber] are not required to provide handicap-accessible vehicles,” Phillips said. Because they’re less regulated, they pose “an existential crisis” to the yellow-cab industry, she added.
Lyft still hasn’t officially launched in the city. On Friday a judge ordered that its drivers would have to be licensed by the TLC.
But legal roadblocks haven’t stopped New Yorkers from showing their love — more than 75,000 downloaded the app, Lyft said.
Uber is also thriving. It’s utilized by about 7,000 of the 15,521 livery cars in the city, according to the TLC.