By Danielle Furfaro
The city will apply the brakes on millions of dollars in fees due this week from taxi-medallion owners in an attempt to stem a rash of cabby suicides.
Taxi and Limousine Commission head Meera Joshi agreed to waive what would amount to nearly $20 million in fees to give struggling medallion owners some breathing room.
She made the move after nearly a year of driver deaths led to mounting criticism from other cabbies, pols and city officials.
Councilman Mark Levine (D-Washington Heights) has been pushing legislation to provide longer-term solutions for medallion owners and asked for the break for taxi drivers who are already on the brink financially.
“This is a short-term step to provide some relief to the drivers while we work out a longer-term policy,” said Levine.
“It’s critical that we take steps to help out the drivers who have seen their life savings evaporate through no fault of their own.”
The city usually requires hacks to pay $1,650 every two years — a biennial $550 taxi-medallion renewal, six $90 inspection fees and a $10 renewal for the medallion tin. Handicapped-accessible medallion owners only have to pay $540 for the inspections.
With 11,286 regular medallions on the streets and 2,301 accessible ones, that’s nearly $20 million in fees that the city is now waiving.
And all of that was set to come due this week.
“Absolutely anything could help out right now,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “People are struggling and they would definitely appreciate it.”
TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi, who has been scorned by taxi drivers for not doing enough to help them, agreed that the hacks need a hand.
“The renewal fee is one more payment for medallion owners at a time when every penny counts,” said Joshi. “It is certainly prudent to pause collection of that fee while [Levine’s] bill moves through the legislative process and, if passed, the study it requires would be in motion.”
The city could try to recoup the fees in the future.
Levine’s bill would require the TLC to conduct a study of medallion owners’ and drivers’ debt and propose ways to help them out.
Seven for-hire drivers — three of them cabbies — have committed suicide over ruined finances since November.
The most recent was Uber driver Fausto Luna, 58, who jumped in front of an A train on Sept. 26 because of massive debt.
In June, cash-strapped yellow cabby Abdul Saleh, 59, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment.
In May, yellow cab driver Yu Mein “Kenny” Chow, 56, jumped into the East River.
In March, cabbie Nicanor Ochisor, 65, hanged himself in his garage in Maspeth, Queens.
Black car driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed himself with a shotgun outside City Hall on Feb. 5, leaving a scathing note blaming the city for his woes.
In December 2017, livery hack Danilo Corporan Castillo, 57, wrote a suicide note on the back of a summons and jumped out the window of his Manhattan apartment.
A month earlier, livery driver Alfredo Perez hanged himself.