Cab drivers demand loan forgiveness after state AG claims medallion fraud

Photo by Mark Hallum

Unfettered competition and high mortgages often result in 80 hours of driving per week from medallion drivers who found it harder to pay the loans they took out in better time.

Now the Taxi Workers Alliance is telling the de Blasio administration that it’s time for loan forgiveness in the wake of medallion owner suicides and the revelation that licenses were inflated, for the most part under the Bloomberg administration.

State Attorney General Letitia James has backed the drivers’ claim by filing an allegation of fraud against the city for the inflated medallion rate from 2004 to 2017, which comes to about $810 million.

“We’re all out here because we know the situation is so deeply unjust and unfair,” TWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday. “At this point, if the debt is not forgiven and something is not done, you’re just going to see massive bankruptcies across this entire industry.”

Of the 5,000 medallions in the city, 3,000 of them are driven by the owner/driver, Desai said.

Speakers at the rally reiterated the conundrum between making the payment on their medallion, their form of income, or the mortgages on their homes.

“Government should be a source of justice, not a vehicle for fraudulent practices. We are fighting to ensure New York’s hard-working taxi drivers can be made whole again,” James said in a statement.

Mouhamadou Aliye has been a Yellow Cab driver for the last 19 years and said he had a “beautiful” life until 2013 when ride shares started capitalizing on New York City turf, what he calls “yellow country.”

“Maybe I have to give [de Blasio] my life so he will find a solution for us,” Aliye said. “It’s not excuse for someone to take advantage of us, to abuse us because we are immigrants… What does the government want for us before giving us relief?”

It was not too long ago that the suffering of cab drivers made front lines.

In May 2018, a Flushing man was found floating in the East River, his car left near the waterfront by Carl Schurz Park near 86th Street.

The family of Yu Mein Chow, 56, were convinced he took his life after hardship tied to how much he owed on the medallion and an inability to make the payments because of the like of Uber and Lyft.

Chow owed $700,000 on a loan he took out in 2011 before they plummeted to $200,000 at the time of his death.

At the height of their value in 2014, taxi medallions were worth $1.3 million.

The Flushing immigrant was considered to be the fifth cab driver suicide at that point in 2018.

The Mayor’s office did not immediately provide comment when contacted by amNewYork Metro.

This story first appeared on amny.com

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