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Meng asks credit agency to help yellow cab owners
Congresswoman Grace Meng is asking the NCUA to work with borrowers from Melrose Credit Union.
By Gina Martinez

Elected officials are looking to help yellow taxi drivers after the expansion of Uber and Lyft in the city has lowered the value of a once highly valuable medallion.

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) sent a letter to the National Credit Union Administration calling on the agency to work with borrowers who used Melrose Credit Union, located at 139-30 Queens Blvd., to finance the purchase of New York City taxi medallions. In 2014 taxi medallions sold for up to $1.3 million, but that value has dropped to $160,000 according to Meng.

NCUA assumed control of Melrose in February after the New York State Department of Financial Services found “unsafe and unsound conditions” at the credit union. As as a result NCUA has required many medallion loans to be rapidly repaid in full, resulting in the bankruptcy of 35 taxi industry borrowers.

Melrose’s loan portfolio is more than 90 percent comprised of medallion-backed loans, Meng said.

She said medallion owners who borrowed from Melrose are being met with unfair repayment demands.

“This burden is turning the lives of hardworking taxi drivers upside down, threatening their livelihood and forcing many into bankruptcy,” Meng said. “It is also threatening the survival of the New York taxi industry. NCUA must do what it can to stop the bleeding. The agency should seek to protect medallion owners as much as it possibly can. Borrowers, through no fault of their own, have hit hard times due to a changing industry. They need help. I eagerly await the agency’s response to our letter.”

On Tuesday Councilman Ydalis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Transportation Committee, was joined by Councilman Costa Constantinides ( D-Astoria) at City Hall proposing a bill that would help taxi cab drivers. Rodriguez proposed a bill that would allow for two vehicles for the price of one medallion. In response the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which oversee the taxi industry, said it would consider the proposal.

Rebecca Harshbarger, a spokeswoman for the TL, said the commission has taken steps to ease the burden on cab drivers, including supporting two bills recently signed into law. The first bill significantly lowered the transfer tax on sale of a medallion and another bill eliminated a rule that labeled almost 9,000 medallions as ones that could only be held individually and prohibited individual owners from owning more than one.

The Business Insider reported this week that there are now more Uber and Lyft cars working the streets in the city than yellow cabs.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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