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New York City mayor backs down from Uber fight, agrees not to cap growth

The Big Apple took on Big App, and it lost

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

This morning I wrote a story arguing that New York City government was doing the right thing by trying to limit the growth of Uber's massive vehicle fleet. The mayor and many on the City Council wanted time to study the industry's impact on congestion, among other things, before allowing it to continue its explosive expansion. But Uber is a heavyweight political machine, and after several days of attack ads, lobbying, and even a celebrity campaign, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio has announced he is dropping his plan for a cap.

The city and Uber came to an eleventh hour agreement: according to the Associated Press, instead of a cap City Hall secured commitments from Uber "to make more of its vehicles handicap-accessible and to turn over data to the city on the location and duration of its rides." If Uber doesn't follow through, deBlasio plans to try again at a cap. But it's hard to imagine he would fare better on a second try following this very public loss.

Uber pulled rank on deBlasio through New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who called Uber an amazing innovator and sidestepped the mayor to speak directly with the city council.

It wasn't just Cuomo: Kate Upton, Ashton Kutcher, and Neil Patrick Harris also lept to Uber's defense. It's all a powerful reminder that Uber, which is a worth more than 70 percent of the corporate giants on the Fortune 500, and is currently fighting similar battle against regulation in nation's around the world, is a fairly unstoppable juggernaut.

As Ben Smith put it earlier this week "[deBlasio] is walking into a political buzz saw: Uber has endless cash, real panic about getting capped in its biggest market, and every incentive to make an example of the high-profile New York mayor. The campaign is being run by David Plouffe, who once pulled off the rather impressive feat of persuading Democrats to hate the Clintons, and who immediately made it personal." Mission accomplished.

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