‘Lifesaving’: NYC announces debt relief plan for taxi drivers

Under the new programme, loans for 3,000 drivers who owe an average of $550,000 are to be restructured to a $200,000 maximum.

New York City taxi drivers who owe hundreds of thousands of dollars on loans they took out to operate yellow cabs will see their burdens reduced substantially under a new debt relief programme.

Under the programme announced on Tuesday by city officials, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) and taxi medallion lender Marblegate Asset Management, loans for 3,000 drivers who owe an average of $550,000 will be restructured to a maximum of $200,000.

Of that, $30,000 will be covered by a grant and the balance will be secured by a city-backed guarantee, the officials said.

The city-backed guarantee means that drivers won’t risk losing their homes if they default, said Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of NYTWA, a drivers’ union. “It’s lifesaving and historic,” she said.

Many taxi drivers who borrowed to buy the medallions that are required to operate a yellow cab landed in deep debt when the value of a medallion plunged from more than $1m in 2014 to $200,000 a few years later. Taxi industry representatives blamed predatory lending practices in the United States – as well as ride-hailing services like Uber – for the crisis.

City officials, the taxi alliance and Marblegate reached a tentative debt relief agreement in November 2021 and worked out the details over the last several months. Under the plan announced Tuesday, medallion owners can apply to refinance their loans starting September 19.

Taxi drivers participate in a New York Taxi Workers Alliance debt forgiveness rally in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the US [File: Ismail Ferdous/Bloomberg]

Andrew Milgram, managing partner and chief investment officer of Marblegate Asset Management, said drivers should not wait to apply.

“With a rapidly changing economy, it is vital drivers act in the month of September to realize meaningful debt forgiveness and a sizable reduction in their monthly loan payments,” Milgram said in a statement.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, praised the deal hammered out by members of his administration including the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.

“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. “We are likely putting tens of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of these owner-drivers and showing them what real relief looks like.”

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