NYC taxi workers celebrate after medallion debt relief agreement reached; hunger strike over

Taxi workers have lastly brokered a debt relief agreement with New York Metropolis and a personal asset administration firm after greater than a month of protests calling on Mayor Invoice de Blasio to do extra to assist 1000’s of drivers combating medallion debt.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance reached a deal on Wednesday with Marblegate Asset Administration, who management numerous the town’s medallions, to “supplement” the town’s existing taxi medallion relief program.

“Taxi workers have worked tirelessly to make New York City the most vibrant city in the world, and we refuse to leave them behind,” mentioned Mayor Invoice de Blasio, in a launch. “I’m proud to have worked with Senator [Chuck] Schumer, NYTWA, and Marblegate to reach an equitable, sustainable solution that builds on the success we’ve achieved in reducing debt burdens for the hard-working drivers who keep our city moving.”

Cab drivers want a medallion to drive inside metropolis limits. Within the 2010s, when driving a taxi was a profitable enterprise and demand for the medallions was excessive, lenders artificially inflated medallion costs to as much as $1 million, forcing lots of of cabbies into debt as they tried to make a residing.

The bubble burst and the worth of medallions dropped — and so did enterprise, as riders opted for extra handy choices like Uber and Lyft. Medallion house owners have been left lots of of 1000’s of {dollars} in debt and with out the means to pay it off – driving a number of to suicide.

Protests started in September, after the Taxi and Limousine Fee permitted de Blasio’s $65 million Taxi Medallion Proprietor Relief Program. Whereas some drivers have been capable of benefit from this system to settle their money owed, many mentioned it simply wasn’t sufficient.

Loudest amongst these voices was the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a 25,000-member union of livery, yellow cab, and ride-hail app drivers. NYTWA members led protests and a protracted hunger strike as a last-ditch effort to get extra assist from de Blasio and the TLC.

“It’s unbelievable! To be honest I did expect something, but not for a long time,” driver Basia O. instructed amNY “Some people didn’t believe, but I know there has to be justice. They simply stole the money from us. The victory is unbelievable. I worked for so long and I lost my medallion and they wanted to go after my house.”

Taxi workers and their supporters took to Twitter to celebrate the agreement.

“We have won a city-backed guarantee,” NYTWA wrote. “Loans will be restructured to max $170K! No more debt beyond our lifetime. No more risk of losing homes.”

Underneath the brand new agreement, Marblegate will restructure current loans to a principal of $200,000, with $170,000 as a assured mortgage and the remaining $30,000 as a grant from the town and a 5% rate of interest. The restructured loans might be on a 20-year plan with scheduled month-to-month funds, which might be capped at $1,122 for “eligible medallion owners.” The town has mentioned they may act as a guarantor for the principal and curiosity — a longtime demand of the NYTWA — and can negotiate with different lenders to work out the identical agreement.

“After a long and painful journey, we made it home to victory,” mentioned Bhairavi Desai, Govt Director of NYTWA. “Today marks a new dawn, a new beginning for a workforce that has struggled through so much crisis and loss. Today, we can say 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.”

Desai thanked de Blasio for standing with drivers and dealing towards an agreement, and Marblegate for “working with us in good faith to reach a resolution.”

Drivers additionally had an surprising ally in Washington – Senator Chuck Schumer, whose father-in-law labored as a taxi driver, has been outspoken in regards to the want for debt relief for medallion holders.

“This resolution was not possible without Senator Schumer whose leadership secured funds and helped steer our ship,” Desai mentioned. “And this victory was not possible without our broad coalition of supporters. The city we love had our back and so today we can say, we have won!”

Assemblymember Zohran Okay. Mamdani, who represents elements of Queens, joined the hunger strike in solidarity with struggling drivers.

“It’s a horrible feeling to go on a fast for 15 days, to deprive yourself of food for more than two weeks is to strip your body of one of the most basic elements of dignity,” Mamdani instructed amNY. “We’re talking about feeling faint, dizzy headaches. You know, losing all of your bearings when you stand up too quickly. Blurred vision, inability to sleep, unrelenting hunger. When you talk to drivers about what it means to be in the throes of this crisis to be $500,000 $600,000 in debt. They talk about feeling the same symptoms. So we felt what they feel for their lives. We felt that for just a few weeks.” 

TLC Commissioner and Chair Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk mentioned the company’s major concern “is all TLC Licensees and the health of the Industry.”

A New York Occasions investigation discovered that the TLC, together with former mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, had not simply did not act on predatory loans — that they had inspired the apply, forcing determined drivers additional into debt as medallion costs rose.

“We remain committed to the success and vitality of the Taxi segment and look forward to building on the success of the Medallion Relief Program in collaboration with Industry stakeholders and elected officials,” Jarmoszuk mentioned.

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