NEW YORK (CBSNew York) – The city’s taxi drivers have been on hunger strike for almost two weeks.
The group is protesting the city’s $ 65 million debt relief program, claiming it is failing, CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon reported on Sunday.
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About 25 everyday New Yorkers joined the cause outside City Hall.
“These guys are in debt for no reason, so I’m here and my heart is open to them,” said Stu Waldnan.
“As human beings, it is our obligation, each of us, to be here and to show solidarity with the people who give to the city,” added Ann Shirazi.
For weeks, taxi drivers have spoken out against the city’s medallion assistance program, which offers $ 20,000 in grants to struggling medallion owners to help them restructure their debt, as well as help with debt. repayment of the debt of $ 9,000.
The owners say the program is just not enough.
“I feel so honestly very hungry, very dizzy, headache and weak. I’m so tired, ”said taxi driver Richard Chow.
Chow owes nearly $ 400,000 on his locket loan. In 2018, his brother, also a taxi driver, committed suicide due to crushing debt.
Chow said he had no choice but to join the strike.
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“I am fighting for my brother. I am fighting for myself. I stand up for 6,000 locket owners and their families for justice and fairness, ”said Chow.
Homeowners want the city and lenders to reduce outstanding loans to $ 145,000, with the city acting as a safety net.
The group said the city artificially inflated medallion prices between 2004 and 2014, which is why it has a responsibility to help those drowning in debt now.
“Who can expect a $ 20,000 grant to lower a $ 550,000 loan?” It’s just a joke, but it’s not funny when you consider the level of tragedy and crisis we are going through, ”said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission said its program had already restructured 173 medallion loans, equivalent to more than $ 21 million in debt cancellation, with nearly 1,000 additional loans outstanding.
Yet, say the taxi drivers, without more help they will not survive.
“I can’t pay my bills. It’s very difficult, ”said medallion owner Balkar Singh.
Medallion owners at town hall said they plan to continue their hunger strike indefinitely, adding that they will not give up until they get the help they need.
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Kiran Dhillon of CBS2 contributed to this report.