Editorials of The Times
Posted May 8, 2018 12:15 a.m. EDT
Until Monday evening New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was a public champion of the #MeToo movement. Now he appears to be the latest sickening example of the scale and insidiousness of the cruelty that movement is confronting. He resigned late Monday after The New Yorker magazine published an article in which four women accused him of abusing them physically and emotionally.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo should appoint a responsible, independent prosecutor to investigate any possible criminal charges against Schneiderman and abuses of his office.
Schneiderman admitted no wrongdoing. Instead, he said in a statement that the “serious allegations, which I strongly contest,” had made it impossible to do his job.
But the allegations outlined by the women are consistent, detailed and bone-chilling.
Two women who had been in relationships with Schneiderman — Michelle Manning Barish, a liberal activist, and Tanya Selvaratnam, an author — told the magazine that he choked and hit them, often during sex, and subjected them to verbal abuse. They said he slapped them so hard that Manning Barish bled from her ear long after the blow, while Selvaratnam suffered from episodes of vertigo.
Both said Schneiderman threatened to kill them, while Selvaratnam said the state attorney also warned her he could have her followed and her phone tapped.
The women told The New Yorker that Schneiderman drank heavily, and would often force them to drink alcohol. Selvaratnam told the magazine that Schneiderman called her his “brown slave,” and forced her to say that she was “his property.”
Schneiderman joins a sorry list of once-rising stars in New York’s Democratic Party whose careers imploded amid allegations of personal misconduct, including former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former Rep. Anthony Weiner. As was the case with those men, the resignation of Schneiderman could have far-reaching consequences.
The attorney general was in the midst of pushing a proposal to change New York’s double jeopardy statute so any aides to President Donald Trump that he might pardon — in an effort to keep them from cooperating with the special counsel — could be prosecuted under state charges. Schneiderman’s moralizing may have proved hollow, but that proposal remains worthy given Trump’s continual attempts to derail the special counsel’s investigation, including raising the prospect of such pardons.
Schneiderman’s office this year also brought a civil rights lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, the movie producer accused of sexual assault and other misconduct.
Under state law, the Senate and Assembly will jointly choose Schneiderman’s replacement, effectively giving the power to his fellow Democrats. Later, voters will go to the polls in the Democratic primary, and have their say about who would face the Republican candidate in November. Whoever serves in this important office should be tough and independent, willing to stand up to Trump and Cuomo and — it should go without saying, but now it needs to be said — be a decent human being.
Anyone involved in the effort to replace Schneiderman should remember: No one is above the law.
New York’s Uber Problem
New Yorkers who can afford to avoid their dysfunctional subway system are spoiled for choice these days. In addition to long-established taxis, livery cabs, black cars and limousines, they can summon rides through Uber, Lyft, Via, Juno and other app-based ride-hailing and ride-sharing services. While this new surfeit of options has been a boon to people trying to get around town, it has also helped lay waste to the livelihoods of taxi drivers and turn New York’s already busy streets into glorified parking lots — and leaders like Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Albany and the City Council have yet to come up with an effective strategy to deal with these problems.
Cities have a long history of intervening to impose order on their streets. No large metropolis can accommodate everyone who would like to drive or be privately driven around — street space is a limited resource, especially in the densest neighborhoods and at the busiest times of the day. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, New York created its taxi medallion system because drivers looking for work flooded the streets, far outstripping demand and driving down wages for drivers. With the rise of Uber, Lyft and the like, the city is again confronting a tragedy of the commons.
Many other thriving cities, including London and Paris, are also struggling to figure out how to respond to these new business models. A big part of the problem is that elected officials have not updated regulations written for a bygone era in which each type of car service tended to stay in its lane, so to speak — in New York, taxis primarily plied the streets of Manhattan and the city’s airports, liveries took care of residents of the other boroughs, and black cars chauffeured the denizens of Wall Street. While the city has issued just 13,587 taxi medallions — a small fraction of the more than 60,000 cars Uber commands — it gave freer rein to the liveries and black cars under the assumption that these specialized services would never become dominant.
Ride-hailing apps have shattered those boundaries by signing up drivers with livery or black-car licenses. These companies cast themselves as filling big gaps in the transportation system, and it’s true that they have been great for people in mass-transit-starved parts of the city. But their growth has also led to many veteran taxi and black-car drivers seeing a devastating decrease in take-home pay. That’s largely because they are completing fewer trips than before. As a result, the value of the taxi medallions that drivers must either buy from the city or rent from taxi companies has crashed in recent years, going from a high of about $1.3 million in 2014 to less than $200,000 today. Over the past five months, four drivers who were financially strained have killed themselves, and many others have lost their medallions to foreclosure.
At the same time, traffic has slowed to a crawl, to just 8.2 mph south of 60th Street in Manhattan in 2015, down from 9.4 mph in 2010, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.
It makes little sense for the city to regulate the old and new guard of for-hire cars differently when many New Yorkers use them interchangeably — as do some drivers, who have been known to switch between traditional cabs and app-based services. While it would be impractical for the city to get rid of its existing regulations in one fell swoop, it could phase in new regulations. A more thoughtful regime would ensure that all drivers make a living wage by establishing a minimum fare for riders, and a standardized share of that fare for drivers, regardless of what kind of car they drive. Or as Brad Lander, a City Council member from Brooklyn, has proposed, the city could require companies like Uber to pay drivers a minimum wage. Further, the city ought to standardize regulations like those requiring that a certain number of cars be accessible to people with disabilities.
The city and state also need to create a smart congestion pricing plan to reduce traffic while raising money for upgrades to the subway and bus system, which would encourage fewer people to get into cabs and Ubers. The Legislature recently added a surcharge on taxi trips below 96th Street in Manhattan: 75 cents for pooled trips, $2.50 for yellow taxis and $2.75 for black cars and Uber and Lyft rides. This charge is flawed. It does not vary by the time of day, and lawmakers failed to impose fees on private cars and trucks. A smart pricing scheme would discourage use of all vehicles when traffic is at its worst and encourage car travel and deliveries at off-peak times.
Over time, the city should consider whether it owes something to drivers who sunk their savings into taxi medallions. Many drivers went into debt to buy these permits because the city promised them a monopoly on picking up passengers, a promise it has not been able to keep. No doubt any compensation plan would be controversial, and working out the details would be tricky — the city, for example, should not compensate investors, like Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s lawyer-cum-fixer, who should have known that they were taking big risks by buying up dozens of medallions. Governments in Quebec and Australia have compensated or are proposing compensating taxi drivers for the lost value of such licenses.
The city needs to make its transportation system fairer to paid drivers, responsive to the needs of commuters and more environmentally sustainable. If the mayor and other elected officials put their minds to that task, they might also help set a model that cities around the world could follow.
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