NYC Taxi Workers Block Brooklyn Bridge, Demand Debt Forgiveness

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NYC TaxiTaxi drivers demanding Medallion debt forgiveness briefly blocked the Brooklyn Bridge Wednesday. The protest, organized by the 21,000-member strong New York Taxi Workers Alliance union (NYTWA), was a release of fury over the astronomical debt they have faced during a global pandemic that has cut ridership by 80%.

“Debt forgiveness now,” chanted Union Founder Bhairavi Desai through a megaphone, leading the drivers in a chant. That’s a lot of debt: To get a city-licensed taxi medallion, drivers had to pay inflated prices, up to $1.3M in 2014, before the advent of rideshare apps crashed prices to a fraction of what they were worth.

In 2021, thousands of taxi drivers are paying up to $600,000 in debt on medallions that are only worth $120-$150k. Last year, Desai testified before the State House Financial Services Committee that Confessions of Judgment were used extensively to take hundreds of thousands in debt from the pockets of taxi drivers.

The day of action started with a gathering of union members at the mayor’s office at 9 am before senior members (62 yo+) testified that the medallion crash stole retirement savings at a City Council Committee on Immigration.

Dozens of taxis then formed a motorcade, blocking the bridge before gathering at the Park Slope home of Senator Chuck Schumer, Democratic Majority leader of the Senate, who NYTWA said is leading negotiations over the stimulus bill.

Protestors could be seen across from the north entrance to Prospect Park to encourage Schumer’s support to push bill H.R. 5617 through Congress. The Taxi Medallion Loan Forgiveness Debt Relief Act will eliminate the need to pay taxes on outstanding medallion debt, the NYTWA website states.

The union also calls for the leveling of taxi medallion debt to $250k per medallion. NYTWA holds that the city helped inflate medallion prices and should assume the leftover debt. The New York Times and Post reported a bailout of that size could top $500M.

Last modified: February 11, 2021
Kevin Travers

Kevin Travers was a Reporter at deBanked.

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