Taxi drivers marched through the steps of City Hall on Friday to hail a new debt relief package.
While a deal was first announced last year under former mayor Bill de Blasio, the framework was only finalized last month, with support from mayor Eric Adams.
Adams was joined on Friday by two other powerful lawmakers who have advocated for drivers, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
What do you want to know
- A debt relief program opened earlier this month, with the city offering grants of $30,000 per driver and guaranteeing debt on restructured loans — which are capped at $170,000.
- Officials say more than 1,000 drivers have already taken advantage of the program and obtained more than $225 million in debt relief
- A deal was first struck last year under former mayor Bill de Blasio, but the deal was only finalized last month with support from mayor Eric Adams.
- Adams was joined Friday by two other political heavyweights, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“When Mayor Adams says he’s a gifted mayor, that’s a great example,” Schumer said. “You did it, baby. Thank you.”
Applications for the program opened earlier this month.
Officials say more than 1,000 drivers have already taken advantage of it, which has relieved more than $225 million in debt.
As part of an agreement with lenders, the city is offering cash grants of $30,000 per driver and guarantees debt on restructured loans, which will be reduced to a maximum of $170,000 and down from a average of about $550,000.
“While we can help and assist large financial institutions, workers should also get a discount,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Schumer, whose stepfather worked as a taxi driver, said he pressed de Blasio on the issue.
“More than a thousand [drivers] reduced their debt,” he said. “They continue to pay a debt, but a debt that they can live with, work with, be proud of and provide for their families.”
Many taxi drivers found themselves buried in crushing debt when the industry was decimated by the rise of Uber and other ride-sharing apps. Several drivers have resorted to suicide.
A push for debt relief culminated in a hunger strike at City Hall last year.
“The owners and taxi drivers are there for us,” Adams said. “Every time we raise our hand to hail a taxi on a sidewalk, they respond. Now is the time for us to defend them.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said: “After all they have given to this city, they can finally feel that they are not only essential, but no longer expendable. . And our beautiful city has recognized the value of taxi drivers.