Taxi Medallion owners hail victory in fight against loan company Holdout

A recalcitrant lender under the taxi medallion owners debt relief deal has canceled its pension men after a caravan of taxi drivers traveled to Minnesota this week to ask the company to come to the table.

The peace agreement between the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and the Edina, Minn.-based lender. continued even after city hall gave the green light to a loan restructuring program.

Schumer credited the report with highlighting the plight of medallion owners who faced seizure of the once-prized piece of metal on taxi hoods that allows drivers to pick up hail from the street.

“Many people in our city are suffering, but too few are paying attention. By shining the spotlight on this, you helped make this happen,” Schumer told THE CITY.

Taxi owner Sunil Kaushik told THE CITY he fought in court to get his medallion back which was repossessed last year. His cab was hidden in a Queens driveway, where he said it had its muffler and catalytic converter stripped as it was pulled aside.

Kaushik canceled the taxi’s insurance because he was not driving during the pandemic and had to pay out of pocket to replace stolen parts. Now he wants to get back on the road.

“I’m very, very, very grateful,” he said of the deal. “I’m hopeful of getting my job back and being able to offer my services as a New Yorker.”

numbers down

Taxi and limousine commission Data shows there were 42 seizures of medallions last month – after 94 in January, 87 in December and 72 in November. Records show there were 497 seizures in 2021, peaking at 119 in August.

The seizures followed years of upheaval in an industry rocked by competition from ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

TLC figures show there were 6,734 yellow cabs on the road in February, only half of the total medallion vehicles.

February’s vehicle count is about 60% of the pre-pandemic yellow taxi count, underscoring a slow comeback from the 86% recovery of rental vehicles like Uber and Lyft.

The Taxi Workers Alliance had repeatedly pressed O’Brien Partners/OSK to stop foreclosures, staging several protests outside the Manhattan office of a law firm that had sent repossession notices on behalf of the lender.

Last weekend, the group organized a caravan in Edina, Minnesota, for two days of talks with a firm whose investments in the taxi industry include loans secured by 323 – or 2% – of all city medallions.

“We have allBhairavi Desai, executive director of NYTWA, told THE CITY. “We pulled out our roster, we got it all.”

The agreement ends the threat of seizure faced by medallion owners whose loans are made to O’Brien-Staley Partners/OSK. This allows them to keep their medallions through pre-agreed weekly payments or, beginning April 1, through restructured monthly payments of $1,122.

More than 60 of the state’s elected officials earlier this month called on the lender to end the foreclosures and locket seizures that continued after the city’s decision. November deal with Marblegate Asset Management, the largest holder of medallion loans, to restructure loans up to $200,000.

This agreement was preceded by demonstrations and a 15-day hunger strike last fall at City Hall.

E. Gerald O’Brien, CEO of O’Brien-Staley Partners, responded last Friday with a letter to Schumer’s office explaining that the company was working in good faith “to resolve a very difficult situation for medallion owners.” .

The letter, which was provided to THE CITY, said the company had signed the original $65 million contract with the owner-driver. relief fund that the city agreed to respect last spring. On March 17, the TLC cleared the tracking taxi medallion debt relief program.

According to TLC, the program as of Wednesday provided 275 grants to medallion owners, totaling $40.3 million in debt forgiveness.

“With the medallion relief program, we are finally turning the tide on the taxi medallion debt crisis,” Ryan Wanttaja, acting commissioner of the TLC, said in a statement. “We continue to encourage all lenders to participate so that we can ensure that financially distressed medallion owners get real debt forgiveness.”

In a statement confirming its participation in the debt relief program, O’Brien-Staley Partners said it “looks forward to the stability this deal will bring.”

“It’s hard for a company to pre-commit to something that doesn’t yet exist without seeing the written details,” O’Brien said in the statement. “That seemed to be the main disagreement between the parties. “Senator Schumer understood this reality and helped everyone to be pragmatic and find common ground.”

‘I take it’

Under the agreement, O’Brien-Staley Partners is supposed to end any private sale contracts for the medallions that had been repossessed and instead offer relief to borrowers locked in legal battles.

“If a locket isn’t sold yet, they’ll get theirs back,” Desai said. “If they are already sold, which I doubt, they will be offered on the same terms with another medallion available.”

Kumar Dhiren with his yellow taxi parked in Queens Village on February 15, 2022.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Locket owner Kumar Dhiren, who received a letter in October saying his locket had been sold after being repossessed, said he was still unsure what the deal might mean for him.

“Unfortunately, I don’t know what benefit I get out of it,” said Dhiren, whose Toyota Prius cab has been hidden in his Queens Village driveway for months. “I don’t know what’s going on with me.”

Dhiren, who paid more than $600,000 for the medallion in 2011, said he would happily get back on the road if he could salvage the once prized asset, which has plummeted in value by more than $1million. dollars in late 2014 to a fraction of that after arrival. in the city of carpooling applications.

“If they give it to me, I’ll take it,” the Bangladeshi immigrant said.

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