The TLC’s External Affairs Unit: Connecting Everyone
Staff members Malcolm Cain and Sonia Guior speak to licensees at a Small Business Services fair in East Harlem.
Whether you are a driver or base owner, you have likely interacted with the TLC’s External Affairs staff. This unit communicates directly with stakeholder groups, licensees, and staff members across the TLC.
“We work with everyone,” said Kala Wright, the director of External Affairs. “We cross paths with every department, and every stakeholder group.”
The TLC’s Kala Wright and Jugba Santi do outreach at the Annual Harvest Fest in East Flatbush.
The External Affairs team is made up of five staffers who do outreach and communications, work on internal projects, and assist with constituent cases. The team interacts directly with about 15 major stakeholder groups, more than 950 bases, and almost 260,000 licensees. These licensees span the industries that the TLC regulates, from taxi and car service drivers to medallion owners and commuter van businesses. About 15 to 20 inquiries typically come in a day from licensees, and staff members try to resolve issues on the first call or point of contact.
The different ways that External Affairs interacts with stakeholders ranges from presentations, phone conversations, and in-person meetings to airport, taxi stand, and driver center outreach. Staffers work closely with other city agencies as well, such as Small Business Services, and create website content for licensees.
Web project manager Michael Manese speaks with External Affairs director Kala Wright.
“The TLC offers many services and functions for not only drivers, but also base owners, tech vendors, and passengers,” said web project manager Michael Manese. “Our site has information that ranges from applying for a TLC Driver License to the latest news about our industry and how to find items left in taxis.”
To connect with drivers and other licensees, staff member Jugba Santi often tables at community events. “I really enjoy doing outreach because it allows me to address the needs our licensees,” said Santi. “I find it really rewarding to help drivers by listening to their concerns and helping resolve their issues.”
Outreach analyst Sonia Guior said her work has taken her to many different communities. “We try our best to reach drivers and stakeholders in their communities all over the city. In my time with TLC so far, I have had the opportunity to visit airports, taxi fleets, livery bases, libraries, community centers, and many events in all five boroughs,” she said. “It is not only interesting to get a better understanding of where our industry operates throughout the city, but it is also important for the work we do to be on the ground communicating with and learning from our stakeholders.”
External Affair’s Jugba Santi loves to do outreach with licensees.
The work of the External Affairs unit has been particularly important in Vision Zero, the City’s effort to end traffic fatalities and reduce injuries. Staff members meet with drivers and give presentations at bases and garages about how to drive safely. Since 2014, TLC staff have visited over 490 bases and garages to discuss Vision Zero with drivers.
“We try to bolster their knowledge of safety, [find out] what we can do to help,” said Wright. “Bases are really happy to see us in person.”
Malcolm Cain does outreach on preventing driver fatigue.
External Affairs also works with Public Affairs to send letters of commendations for drivers who are complimented for outstanding service.
“Too often our licensees’ extraordinary acts of kindness go unnoticed. When we formally recognize their actions, we are acknowledging and appreciating their good deeds,” said staff member Malcolm Cain. “I feel this encourages other drivers to follow their examples.”
External Affairs’ director Kala Wright talks to licensees at the Bronx Taxi/For-Hire Driver Resource Summit.
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