A city taxi medallion just sold for $241,000, down more than 75 percent from the peak value just a few years ago. The plunging price reflects an industry battered by competition from ride-hailing services like Uber. Medallion owners say the city must do more to help them. NY1's Jose Martinez reports:
Eugen Jano has been a cabbie for almost three decades. For 16 years, he's owned his own taxi medallion.
But he's about to lose it.
Fewer people are hailing yellow cabs, and he no longer earns enough to make his monthly loan payments on the medallion.
"It is a very tough business. And it shouldn't be!" Jano says.
But that's the reality facing many yellow taxi owners today. The popularity of e-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft has surged, increasing the competition for fares on already-crowded city streets.
"We have much fewer customers than we used to have," Jano says. "Maybe 30 percent less than it used to be, and we just cannot meet our payments."
Jano was among hundreds of beleaguered cabbies who turned out at a Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) hearing earlier this month demanding the agency do something.
"My income dropped 60 percent in the last five years," cabbie Angel Fernandez said.
"There's no longer a value in the medallion system," said Satwander Singh, a member of the Taxi Medallion Owner Driver Association.
"Our industry is collapsing in front of us," said driver Sergio Cabrera, who also owns his medallion.
After arriving in New York from Romania, Jano followed the path of many immigrants into the cab business.
He eventually bought a medallion for $175,000, seeing it as a route to the American dream.
"It was a very good investment. It was a solid moneymaker," Jano reflected.
At first, that was true. The medallion's value kept climbing, and so Jano borrowed against it, taking out a total of $800,000 when the medallion was valued at $1.15 million.
"Then came the app cars," Jano said. "Once the app cars came, it was the Wild West.''
Jano's income tumbled, even as he drove more, hoping to make up for the shortfall.
By this year, he could no longer afford the $4,500 monthly payment on his loan. His bank is foreclosing on his medallion.
"There's a considerable amount of pain that has spread across the city, particularly with owner-operators," said Michael Woloz of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade.
"A lot of them are going underwater in their mortgages, they are facing personal bankruptcy," Woloz said.
The TLC says it is easing regulations and restrictions on medallions, and allowing cabs to be hailed by apps, but drivers say that's not enough.
As for Jano, he says he's taking it day by day until his medallion gets repossessed. Then, he says, he may just work for Uber.