During rainy and snowy days, food delivery worker Gustavo Ajche struggles to find somewhere to shelter from the elements. Even when temperatures drop below freezing, he braves the cold to complete deliveries in Lower Manhattan.
“Sometimes in the restaurants, we have a few minutes waiting for orders, and then we keep going on the streets,” said Ajche, who is also a co-founder of Los Deliveristas Unidos, a union for delivery workers. After his shift, he brings his bike home to charge overnight.
Now, a $1 million grant from the federal government could mean that Ajche and the 65,000 other app-based food delivery workers in New York City will have access to hubs where they can get warm, charge their bikes, and rest between deliveries, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday. Schumer has recommended the funding be allocated in a spending package that’s pending approval in the Senate and is expected to pass in December.
“These are essential services, and we’re going to continue to ensure that they have the infrastructure to carry out what they need to perform their duties,” said Adams at a news conference Monday. “This is the beginning of re-examining our street furniture and our street design so that we can use the infrastructure in the right way.”
The hubs will be home to charging stations, bike maintenance tools, and gathering areas for food delivery workers, Adams said. They will be built in vacant newsstands and other empty spaces, with input from the community, he said. The plan, should it be funded, still needs to be approved by the city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee, said city parks department commissioner Sue Donoghue. She said she expects construction to begin in a few months.
The proposed funding represents the latest win in delivery workers’ long fight for better working conditions in the city. One year ago, the City Council passed a slate of bills to improve some of the harsh conditions delivery workers face, including requiring restaurants to allow workers to use their restrooms.
The new hubs could also address growing concerns over the risk of charging bikes indoors overnight. In August, a fire caused by an e-bike battery killed a 5-year old girl and seriously injured her father inside the Jackie Robinson Houses in East Harlem.
NYCHA is considering banning e-bikes on public housing property due to the fire risk. Adams said the new hubs will follow standards set by FDNY and the city buildings department.
The number of hubs that will be built, and the services that each will house, is still to be determined. Adams said he will consider including funding for the hubs in next year’s city budget, depending on how the pilot project goes.
To Ajche, the hubs represent progress for delivery workers in the city – and, hopefully, an end to waiting in the cold and rain between deliveries.
“I think with these hubs, all that’s going to change,” Ajche said. “In these places, we’re going to have the basic services for all delivery workers, like bike tune up and battery charging. So it’s going to be something really good.”