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

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the largest lender of taxi medallions agreed to cap drivers’ loans at $170,000. This is in response to the driver debts.

Marblegate will reduce driver’s debts to $200,000 and city coffers will chip in an additional $30,000, the mayor stated in a joint statement with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. The mayor spoke out after the alliance released a statement. It was released in conjunction with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Members of the Alliance pushed for a city guarantee on their debts during a 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."
Marblegate will reduce driver debts by $200,000 as part of the agreement. The city will also receive $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.

After plummeting during COVID-19, taxi trips have seen a rebound in recent months. However, medallion values are still well below the prices that many drivers paid for them.

Photo shows exterior of City Hall In NYC.
Since Oct. 20, protesters have been demonstrating outside New York City Hall
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.

The new agreement was praised by a Marblegate executive.

“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.”

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