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New York City Taxi Drivers Begin Hunger Strike, Say Mayor De Blasio's Debt Relief Bailout Is Not Enough

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- City taxi drivers starting a hunger strike were joined by supporters outside City Hall on Wednesday.

The drastic move came after the City Council recently passed a medallion relief program.

CBS2's Cory James has more on why so many drivers say they feel left behind.

READ MORETaxi Drivers Rally Against City's $65M Medallion Relief Program Outside Council Hearing

With supporters by their side, close to 100 hundred taxi drivers who are part of the New York Taxi Workers' Alliance gathered to start their strike.

"This is a sign of how desperate and how terrible the situation is," actress and former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon said.

This latest move came on the heels of the $65 million medallion relief program passed by the City Council, which offers $20,000 in grants to restructure the mounting cabbie debt, and $9,000 for payment support.

But Augustine Tang said they need more. The 37-year-old inherited his father's medallion five years ago, a loan he said that totals more than $485,000. Tang said his monthly payment is just over $2,800, and the city's plan would lower it to about $2,000.

That is not enough for Tang and other medallion owners, who said they want outstanding loans reduced to $145,000, a decision Tang said is fair, since the market value for medallions right now is less than that amount.

"Our backs are against the wall. They could easily adopt New York Taxi Workers Alliance's proposal and yet they still try to choose a plan to enrich banks and lenders," Tang said.

Hours before the taxi drivers protested, Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked if the city could offer them a better package.

"I've been asked many times before, could we do a full bailout? We cannot. We've been really clear about that. That's hundreds of millions of dollars and has a lot of other ramifications. For other folks who have gone through tough situations and could ask for a bailout, we are really trying to be as helpful as we can in a smart way," the mayor said.

For now, some say they will deprive themselves of the most basic need until taxi drivers have affordable payments.

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