This article was originally published by The CITY on Oct. 3
Food delivery workers will soon have rest stops to call their own — including charging stations in what are now vacant newsstands, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday in City Hall Park next to one of the planned oases.
Their team-up is a change of direction, after former Mayor Bill de Blasio floated his own competing proposal for a worker center last year after Schumer pledged he’d deliver support for the food drivers.
The Senate majority leader and the mayor vowed to convert a handful of unused city-owned newsstands into respite stops for the city’s estimated 65,000 app-based food delivery workers, who pedal for companies such as DoorDash and Grubhub, bringing together worker advocates and the city parks department to get the project rolling.
To build the stations, Schumer is allocating $1 million in earmarked funds, in addition to money from the federal infrastructure bill, to the Worker’s Justice Project — which organizes the drivers’ group Los Deliveristas Unidos.
Workers will be able to use the sites to charge their e-bikes and the phones they use to receive and track orders from the apps. They will also be able to repair their bikes there and take shelter from the heat or cold.
“It’s a game changer,” said Schumer, who first announced his commitment to help fund the idea during a ride-along meeting with Los Deliveristas Unidos last October — calling the new hub “the first infrastructure of its kind for app-based delivery workers in the whole nation.”
The concept originated with one of the workers behind Los Deliveristas Unidos. Downtown delivery worker Sergio Ajche, of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, said the idea occurred to him about two years ago, during the darkest days of the pandemic, when delivery was in high demand and rest spots were scarce.
“I saw this one and thought, it would be great to just get a cup of coffee,” he said in Spanish, pointing to the vacant City Hall Park newsstand.
“Then we started to talk about it some more amongst ourselves, and the idea for charging ports emerged, and how powerful it would be for us to have a presence all over the city. The idea took off from there.”
He added: “I’m proud that we were taken seriously, and that now we’re starting to see the results.”
Said the mayor: “These are essential services. We saw that and we’re going to continue to make sure they have the infrastructure to carry out what they need to perform their duties.”
The collaboration between Schumer and Adams signals a turn for City Hall: Former Mayor Bill de Blasio in his final weeks in office planned but never announced a proposed delivery worker hub in collaboration with New Immigrant Community Empowerment, a Jackson Heights-based workers’ center, according to a draft, never-released press advisory obtained by THE CITY.
The debut of the first Schumer-Adams hub is still months if not a year away.
The $1 million Schumer allocated for the Worker’s Justice Project to develop the idea is still pending approval in the omnibus spending package in the Senate, which is expected to pass in December.
Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the Worker’s Justice Project, said “there is a lot of potential to create Deliverista hubs in every corner of the city where there is high demand for delivery work,” including the Lower East Side, the West Village and the Upper West Side.
Some of the funds announced by Schumer on Monday will also go towards renovating the headquarters of Worker’s Justice Project in Williamsburg.
“As majority leader, when I put something like this in, the chances of it being approved is like 98%. So we’re gonna pay a million dollars to help get these done. There’s nothing I love more than bringing dollars home to New York,” Schumer said. “But this one’s particularly sweet.”
Adams and Parks & Recreation Dept. Commissioner Sue Donoghue declined to say how many hubs could eventually be created.
“We will let you know,” Adams said. Also unknown is whether the hubs will require staffing.
The delivery worker centers had become a signature demand for delivery workers, who last year won a landmark slate of protections approved by City Council, including minimum pay standards and a right to use restaurant restrooms.
They began organizing at the onset of the pandemic two years ago, coalescing around issues that included street safety, bathroom access and lack of transparency of the companies’ pay structures — and a lack of safe, public spaces where they could rest and charge their vehicles.
They held their first protest two years ago, cycling from Verdi Square on 72nd Street to City Hall Park — steps away from the newsstand where Monday’s announcement took place.
“Those of us who are working out on the streets every day, we know what our needs are,” Ajche said in Spanish. “So to see this move from conversations amongst ourselves into real action, feels good.”
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Why shouldn’t the owners of companies delivery workers are employed by pay for these facilities instead of taxpayers via government grants?