May 9: Feds contact PPA about Uber Greyball | Ibrahim Theater expands | Tax abatement ‘myths’

The U.S. Justice Department has contacted PPA in connection with the criminal investigation into Uber’s use of Greyball software to evade regulators, Jason Laughlin reports. Uber has declined to comment, previously stating that the technology “was used to test new features, prevent fraud, protect drivers from physical harm, and deter passengers who violate the company’s terms of service.” The New York Times reported in March that the tool has been used “to evade the authorities in cities like Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea.”

In more Uber news, PennLive’s Christian Alexandersen reports that the ride-hailing company will raise rates by 5 cents-per-mile in eight states, including Pennsylvania, to remove any financial barriers for drivers that wanted to purchase the insurance. In a statement, Uber says that the rise in rates is to offer drivers “a low-cost option for protecting themselves and their families” by having customers pay the cost of a pilot program to provide drivers with injury protection and income security insurance. The raised rate takes effect today.

The Building Industry Association of Philadelphia (BIA)’s Leo Addimando and economist Kevin Gillen want to ‘set the record straight’ about common ‘incorrect assertions’ regarding the Philadelphia’s property tax abatement program. Recently, Gillen, a Lindy Institute senior research fellow, conducted research and issued a report confirming BIA’s view that tax abatements spur development and benefit properties across the city. In a piece for the Philadelphia Business Journal, Addimando and Gillen aim to demystify the abatement program by explaining who qualifies and benefits from the abatement, where the majority of currently abated properties in Philadelphia are, and how the abatement directly and indirectly affects the local tax base. BIA emphasizes that the abatement is available by right, and that property owners “only need to produce a valid building permit and be current on your property taxes, and you automatically qualify.”

Philadelphians know about the “gentleman’s agreement,” the nearly 100-year long building-height cap, under which no one would build taller than the William Penn statue atop City Hall. PhillyVoice’s John Kopp traces the visions, debates, superstitions, and real estate history of Centre Square, City Hall, and One Liberty Place, the key developments that defined the heart of the city and Philadelphia’s modern skyline.

The International House’s Ibrahim Theater, Philadelphia’s first theater to screen exclusively international films, is set to relaunch as the Lightbox Film Center this month. Hidden City’s Joseph G. Brin traces I-House’s organizational history and its mission to provide affordable campus housing and a hub of public programming, and what to expect next from the “unique movie venue embedded within its Brutalist concrete box.”

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