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NYC will cap taxi medallion debts at $170K after driver hunger strike

NYC will cap taxi medallion debts at $170K after driver hunger strike

Drivers plagued by debt on taxi medallion purchased at inflated rates before the expansion of Uber and other e-hail services will have their loans capped at $170,000 under an agreement reached by the city with its largest medallion lender, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

As part of the agreement, Marblegate will reduce driver debts to $200,000, while city coffers chip in another $30,000, the mayor said in a statement released with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, whose members pushed for a city-backed guarantee on their debts during a two-week hunger strike that began Oct. 20.

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

Woman holds sign during hunger strike that reads "220 hours without food."
As part of the agreement, Marblegate will reduce driver debts to $200,000, while the city will kick in $30,000.
James Messerschmidt
People hold signs during a hunger strike for taxi workers, one reading "I am hunger striking in solidarity with people who America profits from but doesn't support."
Drivers are plagued by massive debts after NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission knowingly misled them into taking on loans to buy medallions at inflated costs.
James Messerschmidt

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has already dolled out millions of dollars to help drivers cut their debts, as part of a debt relief program launched in September that offered $20,000 grants for drivers to renegotiate their loans.

Under the new agreement, monthly payments will be capped at $1,122 per month — nearly half what some drivers pay under the existing debt relief program.

Taxi trips have rebounded in recent months after plummeting during the COVID-19 pandemic. But medallion values remain well below what many drivers paid for them.

Photo shows exterior of City Hall In NYC.
Protesters have stood outside New York City Hall since Oct. 20.
Christopher Sadowski

NYTWA’s push for debt relief began after the New York Times revealed in 2019 that city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission knowingly misled drivers into taking on loans to buy taxi medallions at inflated costs over 12 years, ending with the explosive growth of Uber in 2014. New York City raked in $855 million from those medallion sales, the state attorney general’s office found.

A Marblegate exec hailed the new agreement.

“Today’s agreement is a win for taxis, which are a critical piece of New York City infrastructure,” said Chief Investment Officer Andrew Milgram. “It is also a testament to Ms. Desai and the many taxi drivers who have been tenacious advocates and who, along with the de Blasio Administration and Senator Schumer, have delivered meaningful debt forgiveness and a sizable reduction in drivers’ monthly loan payments.”

Source: NYPOST

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