‘They stole from us’: the New York taxi drivers mired in debt over medallions | New York

For greater than a century, taxi drivers have transported busy New Yorkers to their jobs, to brunch, or house from a late evening out. A logo of the town made globally well-known in numerous Hollywood movies, the drivers of those yellow cabs are majority immigrants and other people of coloration.

Driving a New York Metropolis cab has been an important path for immigrants, and their households, to make a good residing. However in recent times all that has modified. Now, many are struggling beneath the burden of life-altering debt after investing in a taxi medallion.

A taxi medallion is the bodily certificates required to function a yellow cab. As soon as seen as a beneficial asset that secured a snug retirement, the medallion’s price has plummeted, leaving the hundreds of drivers who bought a medallion in a whole lot of hundreds of {dollars} in debt, and financially ruined.

A Taxi and Limousine Fee medallion. {Photograph}: Ron Adar/SOPA Photos/REX/Shutterstock

In response to the New York Taxi Staff Alliance (NYTWA), the typical debt owed on medallions by taxi drivers is $600,000.

The tumultuous state of the medallion will be traced again to its synthetic inflation. In 1937, New York Metropolis created the medallion system and positioned a restrict on the quantity of medallions that might be bought, making one uncommon and beneficial. By controlling the availability, demand for proudly owning a medallion soared amongst taxi drivers who purchased into the town’s promise {that a} medallion would convey them monetary stability and a pathway to attain the proverbial American dream.

However the way in which New Yorkers – and vacationers – journey across the metropolis has modified, and the medallion has plummeted in worth. In 2014, its worth had risen to $1m, when those that wished to finance a medallion had been additionally on the mercy of predatory lenders. At present, the worth is about $100,000 and medallion house owners are left mired in debt.

The medallion’s drop in worth is due partly to the overwhelming demand for ride-share providers offered by the likes of Uber, Lyft and Through. In contrast to taxi drivers, the drivers of those corporations aren’t beholden to strict guidelines and rules

Medallion-owning taxi drivers, or “owner-drivers”, who spoke to the Guardian say it’s one other injustice imposed upon them by the town.

An protest to restructure the medallion debt run by the NYTWA has garnered the assist of progressive politicians together with Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, state senator Jabari Brisport, and state assemblyman Zohran Mamdani.

Whereas the town has pledged $65m over 30 years to a medallion debt restructuring plan, the NYTWA and its supporters say it’s not sufficient. The NYTWA proposed its personal debt restructuring plan totaling $90m over 30 years, with a city-backed assure to scale back all excellent medallion debt to a most of $145,000, payable at $800 a month.

Whether or not or not metropolis officers will comply with their pleas stays to be seen, however what will not be doubtful is the true hardship being confronted by yellow cab drivers and their households. Listed below are a few of their tales.

Dorothy LeConte has a medallion debt of $558,000 however stated her dealer raised it to over $600,000 after studying the town would restructure taxi cost plans. She pays $2,000 a month on the mortgage.

Dorothy LeConte pays $2,000 a month on her medallion loan.
Dorothy LeConte pays $2,000 a month on her medallion mortgage. {Photograph}: Ismail Ferdous/The Guardian

Le Conte, as soon as a maid after which a housekeeper supervisor on the Waldorf Astoria, entered the taxi business after listening to about her pal’s optimistic expertise with a medallion.

“I noticed a lady driving a cab. Her husband died and left her a medallion. She was telling me how nice it was having a medallion,” LeConte stated. “She even stated, ‘Dorothy, for those who lose your house, let it go. Maintain the medallion as a result of with a medallion, you would have a number of houses.’”

LeConte refinanced her house and bought a taxi medallion in 1989.

At present, she’s not driving any extra since she put her medallion in storage in the course of the pandemic to keep away from paying insurance coverage.

“My hope is the town restructures the mortgage,” LeConte stated. “I spent hours working to convey meals for my children. They barely see their mother. They are saying, ‘Mother, we by no means see you. You select your medallion over us. Look what this metropolis did to you.’”

MD “Muhammad” Islam lives in Jamaica Hills, Queens. His mortgage is about $800,000 and his month-to-month funds are $4,000. Islam, a Bangladeshi immigrant who got here to US in 2007, began driving a cab in 2009.

MD ‘Muhammad’ Islam has a monthly payment of $4,000.
MD ‘Muhammad’ Islam has a month-to-month cost of $4,000. {Photograph}: Ismail Ferdous/ismail ferdous

“Metropolis officers, everybody stated it’s a superb funding. That it’s ‘higher than a inventory’,” Islam stated. “They influenced us to purchase the medallion. I borrowed cash from my mates, family.”

He stated the one factor stopping him from submitting from chapter is the period of time it takes for somebody’s credit score to clear after declaring chapter.

“I’ve a house. I don’t wish to destroy my credit score line,” Islam stated. “If I file chapter, it should take seven years to clear. It is going to damage [my kids], too. I’m making an attempt my greatest to resolve the issue and never go chapter.

“I’ve loans with two banks. I attempted to barter with the banks however they don’t seem to be negotiating with me,” Islam stated. “If the cost is round $700-800, then we are able to try this.”

Dorina Nitescu moved to Flushing in 1983 from Romania. Her husband, a former taxi driver, died in 2018, however she should nonetheless pay the $200,000 mortgage on his medallion because the dealer listed her as a co-debtor.

Dorina Nitescu must still pay the loan on her late husband’s medallion since the broker listed her as a co-debtor.
Dorina Nitescu should nonetheless pay the mortgage on her late husband’s medallion because the dealer listed her as a co-debtor. {Photograph}: Ismail Ferdous/The Guardian

“We bought this asset 30 years in the past,” Nitescu stated. “It was a superb funding at the moment for our retirement.”

Now, Nitescu is left with nothing however the medallion and a whole lot of hundreds of {dollars} of debt. Her solely solution to become profitable off of the medallion is to purchase a automotive and lease it to a taxi driver, however she stated she can’t afford it.

“We began paying the mortgage with the bank card. After [my husband] died, I didn’t have cash for the funeral. The dealer stated, ‘I wish to allow you to from my coronary heart,’ however he was a giant liar. They stole all the pieces from him.”

Out of desperation, Nitescu and her husband started attending the NYTWA protests for mortgage reconstruction.

“My husband even made all the good indicators from the bed room. He even reduce my sheets and stated, ‘Don’t fear, we’ll change that,’” Nitescu stated. “He had the fervour to try this.“

At present, Nitescu attends the protests alone.

“I don’t know my course. I’m in a giant mess,” she stated. “On prime of this, I’ve hire. I’m within the final a part of my life. I wish to repair my life. I really feel sorry for myself. We didn’t come right here to be wealthy. Simply to make a residing. They stole from us.”

Erhan Tuncel, 61, obtained his taxi license in 1998 and bought his medallion in 1999. His month-to-month cost was $3,250 however when his balloon expired, the financial institution raised the month-to-month cost to $3,800. His whole mortgage quantity is $690,000.

Erhan Tuncel’s monthly payment is $3,800.
Erhan Tuncel’s month-to-month cost is $3,800. {Photograph}: Ismail Ferdous/The Guardian

“I instructed them I couldn’t do it in order that they got here and took the medallion. They foreclosed on it, so I’m not making these funds,” Tuncel stated. “It was a pathway for an immigrant in New York to the center class and that’s been taken away.”

Many have discovered themselves in a scenario much like Tuncel: his revenue as a taxi driver will not be sufficient to repay his medallion debt, so his lender seized it. However with out his medallion, Tuncel can’t make a residing.

“The circumstances now don’t warrant such giant funds. We’ve got been pushed to that scenario by folks in energy so we wish them to right the scenario.”

Tuncel needs his medallion returned, his mortgage restructured, and to get again to driving the general public.

“It will imply getting my life again,” Tuncel stated. “This wasn’t our fault. We wish the town to appreciate that and provides us again the dignity we deserve.

“It’s a quite simple ask when you consider it.”

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One thought on “‘They stole from us’: the New York taxi drivers mired in debt over medallions | New York

  • October 2, 2021 at 11:15 am

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