Jan. 3, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Council Member Costa Constantinides is calling on the NYPD to halt issuing summonses and confiscating illegal e-bikes and e-scooters from delivery workers.
Constantinides, who is also running for Queens Borough president, penned a letter to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea asking him to stop his officers from confiscating the bikes that are typically used by delivery workers trying to eke out a living.
Many of the workers are poor immigrants struggling to make their way in their newly-adopted country, he added.
He asked that the NYPD create “safe zones” in dense areas like western Queens, where officers will not confiscate the vehicles and issue fines to their operators — which can be up to $500.
The state came close to legalizing throttle-controlled e-bikes and e-scooters with a bill sponsored by Queens lawmakers State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic. It passed both the senate and assembly with overwhelming support, but was vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last week.
Their legislation aimed to legalize the use of throttle-controlled vehicles, which are popular with delivery workers. Pedal-assist e-bikes, which get a jolt of electric power only when a rider pedals, are already legal.
The new law would have given municipalities the right to regulate e-scooters and e-bikes as they saw fit. However, municipalities such as New York City cannot legalize and regulate the throttle-controlled options until Albany passes a law.
Cuomo said he vetoed the bill since it didn’t include a helmet requirement and other safety measures. In a tweet, the governor said he would propose a new bill with such measures on Jan. 8.
There is no need for us to choose between legalizing e-bikes and safety, and I will propose a bill that does both on January 8.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) December 27, 2019
Constantinides, in his letter to Shea, pointed out that e-bikes and e-scooters are already accepted as part of New York City’s streetscape and that it’s only a matter of time until the state does legalize the vehicles in order to meet growing demand of food deliveries.
“Public sentiment has rightly turned to legitimizing the vehicles, so I ask the Department allow them to operate as Albany sorts out how they will be legislated,” Constantinides wrote in the letter. “While they are indeed classified as illegal now, e-bikes and scooters acceptance in our streetscape is a foregone conclusion.”
The Council Member said that it could take at least six months by the time the governor and two chambers pass legislation to legalize them. He said that delivery workers should not be slapped with steep fines and their e-vehicles confiscated during that period.
Constantinides said that the NYPD has a chance to create goodwill with residents by not issuing summonses. “The NYPD has a real opportunity to gain trust with otherwise, and understandably, weary immigrant communities,” he wrote.
“Most of these drivers are immigrants who are working tirelessly to achieve that same American dream we all aspire to,” he wrote. “They ride exposed to the elements, whether in rain, snow, or otherwise, when we feel that it’s too arduous to walk a few blocks to get a burger.”
He noted that his own local precinct, the 114th Precinct, confiscated 11 e-scooters in one sweep in January 2019. The Council Member said that the city is taking thousands of dollars in income-earning property from low-wage workers.
“There is no doubt e-bikes are here to stay, so it is on us as leaders to develop a plan for how they fit into our streetscape,” Constantinides wrote to Shea. “Halting summonses and confiscations while the legislative process is worked out is a necessary first step.”