NYC council considers bailout for struggling cabbies

NYC council considers bailout for struggling cabbies
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Members of New York’s City Council are considering bailing out the city’s taxi drivers as ride-hailing services threaten to put them out of business, according to Bloomberg.

On Monday, dozens of owners and operators of Yellow Cabs demonstrated at City Hall and testified about the impact of predatory lending and city regulations that inflated the market for licensing medallions, according to the publication.

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“I think about taking my life — I really do — and the only thing that stops me is my kids,” driver Mouhamadou Aliyu testified, saying he bought a medallion in 2004 for $700,000 that is now worth $100,000.

Aliyu told council members he has $54,000 of debt and that he lacks the income to pay his medallion loan, cab lease and mortgage.

“If I lose my house I’m killing myself, period. Because my house is for my kids, my future, please help me,” he told the City Council, according to the publication.

Bhairavi Desai, who heads the Taxi Workers Alliance, told the City Council at least nine drivers have taken their own lives since late 2017 and called on members to put a $900 a month cap on medallion loan payments and appoint a task force to determine the worth of a taxi medallion and encourage lenders to forgive loans above that amount.

Ydanis Rodriguez, the chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, invited the drivers to testify, although he did not endorse all of their demands, and condemned the “blind eye” he said city regulators turned toward the cab drivers’ plight.

“These are small business owners, many of them immigrants who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into a medallion in hopes of achieving their piece of the American dream,” Rodriguez told the council.

“We must also find a way to hold the people responsible for this financial crisis accountable. This crisis was no accident, and we must make sure the taxi medallion owners receive justice,” he added.

Oversight Committee Chairman Ritchie Torres, meanwhile, accused the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission of failing to safeguard drivers, noting that it heavily promoted medallion auctions in 2014 before Uber had come to dominate the market, calling them “better than the stock market” as an investment.