Taxi drivers rally at NY City Hall

Taxi drivers gathered outside City Hall for the Taxi and Limousine Commision’s public hearing to in support of reduced medallion loans.


Zhuoer Liu

Following a 2021 hunger strike, members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance now gather for a hearing on reduced taxi medallion loans. (Photo by Zhuoer Liu)

Zhuoer Liu, Contributing Writer

Members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance gathered outside New York City Hall on Feb. 8 for a Taxi and Limousine Commission public hearing on the promised debt relief they won in December. Nearly 100 cab drivers attended.

After a hunger strike that lasted two weeks from October to November, the NYTWA negotiated for a debt relief agreement that resulted in Marblegate Asset Management supplementing the Taxi Medallion Owner Relief Program and forgiving $70 million of debt. 

Medallions are a required permit that all cab drivers buy in order to operate an independent cab in New York City. A study by the New York Times discovered that the prices of medallions were purposely increased by banks from 2002 to 2014, which pushed cab drivers into debt from struggling to pay back to the banks.  

“In 2006, I bought the medallion from a New York City auction,” Richard Chow, a NYTWA activist, said. “I bid $410,000 for it. The price drove very crazy at that time; it went up to $1.1 million. My American dream came true, I made a good living, taking care of my family, and raising my kid to college as a taxi driver. Now, the prices are down to $70,000 to 80,000. This is the worst time since the pandemic. More people will lose their jobs.”

During the public hearing, the commission proposed that $200,000 loans receive a $30,000 grant backed by the city and the remaining $170,000 be amortized at 5% interest over the next 20 years.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) said during the testimony at the public hearing that multiple considerations are necessary to guarantee that all loans are covered and medallion owners receive loan relief. Ramos emphasized that these conversations need to include drivers. 

“No decisions about working people should be made without them at the table,” Ramos said. “I thank TLC for beginning this process with an open hearing and remain committed to the immigrant workers who organized for a just solution to this terrible crisis.”

In the hearing testimony, Ramos said that the medallion program must fulfill the city’s promises regarding debt relief. She said that this entails stricter rules to prevent lenders from deciding which loans are restructured, a re-extension of cash fulfillment offers and a broadening of the qualifications for medallion loan relief.

As Ramos and taxi workers are waiting for the promised changes to be enacted, NYTWA organizer Mohammad Tipu Sultan hopes no unexpected modifications are made.

“It needs to be rulemaking, the TLC has to approve this and today we are testifying based on that,” Sultan said. “We want to make sure that the rule is taking place. We want this problem to be solved as soon as possible, and make sure no drivers are left behind.”

Contact Zhuoer Liu at [email protected].