Finally a ‘brake’: City Council approves taxi relief package after years of turmoil

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New York City Council’s stated meeting Thursday will see a vote to approve three bills expected to bring relief to taxi drivers and medallion holders experiencing hardship from debt by fighting off predatory lending.

The taxi industry was struggling prior to the pandemic with 2018 seeing an increased number cab driver suicides linked to outstanding medallion debt and COVID-19 has not been any kinder to them as medallion prices have dropped considerably and profits are down.

As part of the package, city council will be creating an Office of Financial Stability within the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) which will evaluate the industry and provide oversight of income and expenses for medallion owners, medallion loan terms and market manipulation.

“We cannot afford to have the TLC auction off medallions at speculative prices or approve medallion transfers with speculative loans,” the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Richie Torres said. “This bill will create a new office that will have the statutory obligation to oversee and regulate the financial stability of the medallion market. We must ensure that taxi drivers are not driven into another financial crisis cause by a medallion bubble and predatory lenders.”

Int. No. 1584-A by Councilwoman Adrienne Adams would require those applying for a taxi license to disclose financial reports on income and any loans secured, as well as any other interests the person filing the disclosure has in any taxi, livery or for-hire vehicle business.

“Unfortunately taxi drivers in New York City were sold the American dream that not only did not materialize but placed them in severe financial debt,” said Adams. “Taxi drivers desperately need assistance and Introduction 1584 will be a step forward toward transparency and an end to predatory behavior. As a city, we must do all that we can to end the suffering for taxi drivers.”

These two bills would go into effect 120 days from being approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The third bill, introduced by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, would require the TLC to take into account the character, honesty and integrity of brokers, agents and licensees when they either submit for a new license or renew an old one. The TLC could, in the future, reject an application if the individual is found to lack these qualities upon taking into account any prior fraudulent, deceitful or unlawful acts while engaged with the commission in the course of obtaining a license.

“We saw what happened when taxicab brokers, agents, and taxicab licensees were left to their own discretion. They took advantage of vulnerable and mostly immigrant New Yorkers who were trying to make an honest living,” Rodriguez said. “With this bill, any taxicab broker, agent and licensee who violates TLC’s prescribed rules and regulations on this matter will face serious consequences, including denial or nullification of their license.”

This bill will go into effect 180 days after being signed into law.