Watch CBS News

NYC, TLC and Taxi Workers Alliance announce historic deal on medallion debt relief

NYC announces historic debt relief program for taxi cab owners
NYC announces historic debt relief program for taxi cab owners 02:24

NEW YORK -- There is now major relief for yellow cab medallion owners who for years were burdened with debilitating debt. On Tuesday, the city announced a historic relief program.

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge spoke to one driver about his emotional reaction.

"I'm so happy," Richard Chow said.

Chow has driven a yellow cab for 17 years, but now a major weight -- hundreds of thousands in debt payments -- has been lifted off his shoulders.

"This is the most satisfied in my life," Chow said.

The city, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance reached an agreement with Marblegate Asset Management, the largest taxi medallion lender in the city, to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in loan forgiveness to more than 3,000 medallion owners.

"This is not a bailout. The drivers are still going to be left with a significant debt, but what the new debt levels do is give the drivers a fighting chance of survival," said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance.

Desai said the average debt right now for medallion owners is $550,000. Under this new program, their debt will drop to $170,000, which will be paid over 25 years. That translates to $1,200 per month.

FLASHBACKTaxi drivers' hunger strike ends, after city agrees to additional medallion debt relief

At its height, a yellow cab medallion, a permit allowing a driver to operate in New York City, was worth gold.

"For many, it was their life's savings, life's retirement, but after Uber and Lyft were allowed in without regulation and they flooded the streets with vehicles, the value really plummeted from at the height of $1 million to below $200,000," Desai said.

Many taxi drivers defaulted on their loans and lost everything from their income to their homes, and even their lives.

"We had nine driver suicides, so many drivers who died early from heart attacks just from the stress and tension," Desai said.

Chow's brother, Kenny, was one of the taxi drivers who took his own life, after feeling overwhelmed with seemingly no way out.

"My brother, before he died, he owed $580,000 to the bank. I owed about $400,000 to the bank," Richard Chow said. "If my brother was alive today, I think he would be the most happiest person. Now, a little too late, you know? I lost my brother. I hope he rest in peace."

Now, Richard Chow says he has hope for the future and, one day, retirement. He just wishes his brother was here to do it with him.

Medallion owners can begin the loan restructuring process immediately, and begin closing on restructured loans on Sept. 19.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.