Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined the list of NYC elected officials calling for a bailout of the city’s debt-ridden taxi medallion owners.
Speaking at a House Financial Services committee hearing on small business loans Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez admonished city officials and federal regulators for allowing — and in some cases, encouraging — drivers to take high-priced loans that have since crippled them with debt.
“These taxi drivers need a bailout, because this is not just about predatory collection practices,” she said. “This is manufactured financial indentured servitude, and it is wrong.”
As recently at 2013, medallions were selling for $1.3 million at Taxi and Limousine Commission auctions. By last year, the price had plunged to less than $250,000 — with medallion owners still on the hook for their million-dollar loans.
Meanwhile, lenders walked away with tens of millions of dollars in profits, an investigation by the New York Times revealed in May. The city itself raked in over $855 million over 12 years from the transactions.
Taxi driver advocates aren’t seeking a bailout, but city-funded debt forgiveness, according to New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai, who testified at Thursday’s hearing.
The city should buy the medallion at the current prices — around $150,000 — and establish lending agreements with driver-owners at that rate, Desai said.
“Technically it’s not a bailout. It really is loan restructuring,” she told The Post. “Multiple players are responsible for this, but the city is the one with the means to effectively bring the owner drivers out of despair and lifelong poverty.”
Ocasio-Cortez, Desai said, “made it clear that the owner-drivers are not responsible for their predicament.”
The plight of taxi drivers caught the city’s attention after a spate of driver suicides in 2018.
In July, the freshman Bronx Democrat joined eight of her New York congressional colleagues calling for “much needed monetary assistance” for indebted medallion-owning drivers.
“Regulatory agencies knew, the city knew,” she said Thursday. “These suicides are not just an indirect side-effect, they are a direct consequence of the neglect of a vulnerable community in New York City.”
TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT :
Meanwhile, here in London, let's just remember what happened to our ex Chancellor of the Exchequer