Taxi drivers and their advocates packed the steps of City Hall Wednesday, demanding the de Blasio administration hit the gas on relief for struggling medallion owners.
"Right now, I can't even pay what I have to pay," said Dorothy Leconte, a taxi medallion owner. "I have no money for me to survive."
As the value of taxi medallions surged past a million dollars each, many drivers took out loans to buy them, or borrowed against them. But then the value of the medallions, which permit holders to operate yellow cabs, crashed as drivers for e-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft flooded the city.
Many drivers got squeezed financially, unable to make their loan payments. Nine drivers have killed themselves in the last two and a half years.
"Let's end this nightmare now,” Bhairavi Desai, another taxi driver. “We have a fair solution; we have a just solution; we have a simple solution. All we need is the city to come to the table."
Drivers organized a campaign to get the de Blasio administration to create a program forgiving some debts.
A City Council-led committee responded with a proposed bailout, using public and private money — an idea supported by Mayor de Blasio's new Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairwoman.
Last month, the state attorney announced she will sue for more than $800 million, alleging that Taxi and Limousine Commission inflated the value of medallions, leading drivers to buy them at unsustainably high prices.
Taxi advocates hope that the state attorney general's intention to sue the city for fraud over the inflated taxi medallion values will pressure the city to take action as early as this month, before a lawsuit is officially filed.