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Taxi Drivers Reach Agreement With City on New Debt Relief Plan, Ending 15-Day Hunger Strike

Drivers demanding a more aggressive debt relief plan on Oct. 25 (Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani)

Nov. 4, 2021 By Allie Griffin

The city, taxi drivers and a medallion loan provider have reached an agreement on a new debt relief plan, ending cabbies’ 15-day hunger strike and providing them relief from crushing debt.

The new plan vastly expands the city’s previous debt plan announced in March, which taxi medallion owners had said provided little relief.

Drivers — supported by their union, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance — have camped outside City Hall each day for more than a month to protest the previous plan. About a dozen drivers along with Astoria Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani started a hunger strike on Oct. 20 that continued until their demands were met.

On Wednesday, the city — at the urging of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer — put forward a plan that met medallion owners’ wishes.

“Taxi workers have worked tirelessly to make New York City the most vibrant city in the world, and we refuse to leave them behind,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

De Blasio, Schumer — whose father-in-law was once a yellow cab driver —, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Marblegate Asset Management, the largest medallion lender, agreed to a plan.

Marbelgate agreed to reduce the debt owed by each medallion owner to $170,000 — a significant reduction from a driver’s average debt of $550,000. It also agreed to lower drivers’ monthly payments to $1,122 or less.

The city, for its part, will give the lender $30,000 for each driver and guarantee every loan — agreeing to repay it if a driver defaults.

The city’s original $65 million debt relief program didn’t include a city-backed guarantee, which was a major point of contention. The drivers fought for the city’s guarantee so they would be protected against home foreclosures and liens if they defaulted.

The city is working to reach the same terms with all other medallion lenders.

Many of the taxi drivers saddled with debt are immigrants who bought taxi medallions — which allow drivers to operate their own cab rather than be part of a taxi fleet — when they were seen as smart investments and a mechanism to achieve the “American dream.”

However, taxi industry leaders and lenders artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions year after year until the medallions fetched more than $1 million in 2013. Buyers had to take out loans from questionable lenders — who pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a New York Times investigation — to afford the exorbitant prices.

When unregulated apps like Uber and Lyft came into the city, taxi drivers saw business drop and the value of a medallion plummet. The current value is priced at just over $100,000, according to the Times.

Since the medallion market crashed, nine drivers — plagued by crushing debt — have died by suicide.

The new debt relief plan announced Wednesday will save lives, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said.

“This is a life-saving initiative,” Executive Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai said. “This journey started for us with so much pain and so much grief but we are overjoyed right now. We feel triumphant.”

She added that the new plan marks a new beginning for taxi drivers.

“We can say owner-drivers have won real debt relief and can begin to get their lives back,” Desai said. “Drivers will no longer be at risk of losing their homes, and no longer be held captive to a debt beyond their lifetime.”

She delivered the news directly to drivers protesting outside City Hall Wednesday.

Mamdani, who was out there with them, rejoiced. In a statement, he said the agreement will change the lives of taxi drivers across the city.

“Over these past few months — through a hunger strike, an arrest, and having spent night and day in front of City Hall — I have gotten to know many of these drivers and the reasons for their fight,” he said. “They fight to put food on their family’s table, to keep their homes, to send their kids to college, to fight for those we lost to suicide, and to live a future free of the devastation of the debt crisis.”

When it looked like there was no hope, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Schumer and de Blasio made real debt relief happen, he added.

“It is through solidarity with each other, that we finally got drivers what they deserve,” Mamdani said.

 

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16 Comments

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Lucky number 7 train

The real crimes committed were not by uber or Lyft. they were by the countless cad drivers who would hear a foriegn accent and take people for ride arounds jack up the fare. I cant tell you how many times I experience that and heard of people who know there way around dealt with that. dirty, rude and nasty are a couple of other words that come to mind. also the garbage that drivers had to deal with nasty drunks, unruly people and crime I’m sure is less with ride share. we all are held accountable for our behavior. sure ive left something behind in a ride share once or twice and both times I called the driver right away and they returned to find a nice extra cash tip. 😞 I just recalled those girls that were sexually assaulted by those cabdrivers at 61st woodside stop those many years ago. If we had ride share back then they would have caught them faster or it wouldn’t have happened at all. get out of the way of technological advancement
you made a bad investment suck it up buttercup and join the club it happens. Given a choice people will always choose to wait inside safe and dry while they GPS their ride home. oh my driver Jim is a 1 minute away by all.

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ABoondy

wow, so these crooks will steal half a million dollars from the taxpayer for each medallion, because the medallion owners lost value? how is this theft allowed?

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Robert

Essentially you want to socialize the debt losses, but when the medallions were appreciating you got to keep the profits. Ok

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cry babies

o yea- they went to skin and bone by the looks of them. what a joke. its a free market. they took the risk. whos going to compensate all the home owners that now have homeless hotels next door and their property price is in the toilet.

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There is stupid then there is Fox stupid

Cry Hashtagger -Your post is so disingenuous as usual. You never once mentioned the criminal conduct of 2 ride share companies that caused the financial collapse of this industry. This is a case of financial fraud and has nothing absolutely nothing to do with “acceptable” risk.

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explain

so if the criminal conduct of 2 ride share companies are responsible then why do the taxpayers have to pay for their loss and not the 2 ride share companies?..and exactly what crime did they commit? The deBlasio admin allowed them to operate freely as long as they donated to his not for profit.

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The anti Fox guy is right

Explain what? It’s posted here plain as day. Uber and Lyft entered and did business in a restricted market therefore violating the law.

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Hahaha

“whos going to compensate all the home owners that now have homeless hotels next door and their property price is in the toilet.”

It’s a free market. They took the risk.

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Truth

The medallion situation is a prime example of how government controlled the medallion market by limiting medallion license supply thus sky rocketing the price. And because of innovation (Uber, left, Juno, etc…), driver’s can drive, people can put food on the table. It’s because of government getting in the way is the reason medallion holder’s are in a rut.

Go ahead… use your iPhone, communists, to whine about free markets and innovation are racist and hurt people 🙄😒. Go. To. China. You’d never make it… USA is THE BEST!

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There is stupid then there is Fox Stupid

Truth- “Innovation”. Entering restricted markets and recklessly endangering passengers and citizens in the process is not innovative, it’s illegal and “criminal”. Lyft and Uber engaged in this criminal behavior throughout the world, replicating this scenario in municipalities all over the world and the US. Lyft and Uber should be forced to pay restitution for their crimes not the US tax payer. What’s up with your silly over the top and out of place over praise of the US? Does America look like it needs constant praise and adulation like a disadvantage child?

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Gia

Truth – You know very little about free markets and economic principles. You’re nothing but an echo chamber with no free will or ability to think on your own. This is coming to you from a woman who has been to China, Russia, Singapore and thirty other countries setting up deals for International Capital Emerging markets.

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Uber please bring back ride share

How much are Lyft and Uber paying toward restitution for their criminal behavior? How much of the illicit money these two companies pulled in is going to right this criminal wrongdoing?

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Georgia

I was wondering what all that cheering and clapping was for when i was in Astoria the other day. Astoria loves Mamdani.

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