NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New legislation could offer major relief for taxi drivers in New York City.
The rise of ride-share companies and the declining values in medallions have left drivers drowning in debt.
After years of struggling, Friday at City Hall some tax drivers found a glimmer of hope.
“This bill, if it passes, it will help me. It’s like heaven, because at least I could have a break,” said medallion owner Dorothy Leconte.
Watch: Lawmakers Call For Taxi Medallion Debt Relief
New York Rep. Gregory Meeks and other local leaders proposed new legislation called “The Tax Relief For Taxi Drivers Act” that would guarantee taxi medallion owners wouldn’t be taxed for any debt forgiveness.
“What has happened to taxi drivers in New York City is both tragic and outrageous. This bill is a crucial step that would provide real relief for many drivers,” Meeks said.
That includes Leconte, 63, who still owes $560,000 for her medallion.
“I bought my medallion when I was 30 years old. That was all my fortune,” she said. “Thirty three years driving a cab, and I turn to poverty… I’ve only got $15 in my pocket.”
Galina Kaminker and her husband, both taxi drivers, are in a similar situation.
“Right now, I owe a little bit more than $200,000 and my payments, I cannot make it. It’s very high,” Kaminker said. “My husband is ready to retire but he cannot, he’s diabetic, but he has to continue to work.”
Friday’s announcement comes after the city’s Medallion Task Force also created its own plan, recommending the city develop a public-private entity that would buy out the loans and refinance them at market value with fair interest rates.
“Our city has an obligation to help those mortgage their future,” Velazquez said.
“In total, they owe hundreds of millions of dollars on their medallions, while the price of a medallion has fallen about 80 percent,” Meeks said.
Drivers CBS2’s Reena Roy spoke to are confident these measures could make a big difference.
“I hope this is what happens. It’s going to be the greatest thing they ever did, because they created the mess,” Leconte said.
“We can pay out our loans much quicker and allow him to retire, and hopefully rent it out,” Kaminker said.
Rep. Meeks says he already has a good amount of bipartisan support for his bill. As for the recommendations from the task force, a spokesperson from the mayor’s office would tell us the city will be reviewing them.
Members of the task force say they are still working out details, including how much money would have to be raised, and how much the city would need to invest.