NYC taxi drivers to receive debt relief for medallions

Tahreem Ashraf

New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a new relief program aimed to alleviate the burden of debt for taxi owners attributed to medallions.

A taxi medallion — a physical permit or license plate that allows drivers to operate a taxi — had long been heralded nationwide as a smart investment for cab drivers, but the price of a medallion has surged in New York City, reaching over $1 million in 2014.

Medallion values plummeted from $1.2 million in 2014 with the rise of  Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., leaving thousands of yellow taxi owners under high debt.

“For many, it was their life’s savings, life’s retirement, but after Uber and Lyft were allowed in without regulation and they flooded the streets with vehicles, the value really plummeted from at the height of $1 million to below $200,000,” Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told CBS2 New York.

Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a three-way agreement to restructure the debt last November, but not until after a 15-day hunger strike by debt-ridden taxi drivers.

The Medallion Relief Program is the final product of the agreement. The deal was made between the city government, NYTWA, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and Marblegate Asset Management — the largest taxi medallion lender — and provides loan forgiveness to more than 3,000 medallion owners.

“Our taxicab medallion owners and drivers have always kept New York City moving, and it is finally time we pay it forward with real debt relief for owners in need,” Adams said, according to a press release. Taxi drivers owed an average debt of $600,000 due to medallions in 2021.

The debt relief program will allow medallion owners to renegotiate loan agreements, restructure outstanding loans to $200,000 and reduce monthly payments.

An additional $30,000 in grants will be applied to down payments.

“We wish it had gone much faster,” Desai told Gothamist. “One of the consequences of it taking so long is that the interest rate, which we had agreed to at 5% back in November, is now going to go up to 7.3% in light of inflation … but overall, it’s a tremendous gain for us.”

The new loan will include a 7.3% interest rate for a 25-year term. Monthly payments will be capped at $1,234.

“Today, we finally have a concrete deal to get medallion owners the relief they desperately need,” TLC Commissioner David Do said, according to a press release.

Taxi drivers rejoiced at the historic deal after years of devastation, suicides, protests and hunger strikes.

Richard Chow, who has worked as a taxi driver for 17 years, owed $400,000 in debt. His brother, who owed $580,000 in debt, died by suicide.

“If my brother was alive today, I think he would be the most happiest person,” Chow told CBS2

New York. “Now, a little too late, you know? I lost my brother. I hope he rest in peace.”

The loan reconstructing process will be initiated immediately and the closing on reconstructed loans will begin on Sept. 19.