city:san francisco

  • Revolt of the gig workers: How delivery rage reached a tipping point - SFChronicle.com
    https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Revolt-of-the-gig-workers-How-delivery-rage-13605726.php

    Gig workers are fighting back.

    By their name, you might think independent contractors are a motley crew — geographically scattered, with erratic paychecks and tattered safety nets. They report to faceless software subroutines rather than human bosses. Most gig workers toil alone as they ferry passengers, deliver food and perform errands.

    But in recent weeks, some of these app-wielding workers have joined forces to effect changes by the multibillion-dollar companies and powerful algorithms that control their working conditions.

    Last week, Instacart shoppers wrung payment concessions from the grocery delivery company, which had been using customer tips to subsidize what it paid them. After outcries by workers on social media, in news reports and through online petitions, San Francisco’s Instacart said it had been “misguided.” It now adds tips on top of its base pay — as most customers and shoppers thought they should be — and will retroactively compensate workers who were stiffed on tips.

    New York this year became the first U.S. city to implement a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft, which now must pay drivers at least $17.22 an hour after expenses ($26.51 before expenses). Lyft, which sued over the requirement, last week gave in to driver pressure to implement it.

    For two years, drivers held rallies, released research, sent thousands of letters and calls to city officials, and gathered 16,000 petition signature among themselves. The Independent Drivers Guild, a union-affiliated group that represents New York ride-hail drivers and spearheaded the campaign, predicted per-driver pay boosts of up to $9,600 a year.

    That follows some other hard-fought worker crusades, such as when they persuaded Uber to finally add tipping to its app in 2017, a move triggered by several phenomena: a string of corporate scandals, the fact that rival Lyft had offered tipping from the get-go, and a class-action lawsuit seeking employment status for workers.

    “We’ll probably start to see more gig workers organizing as they realize that enough negative publicity for the companies can make something change,” said Alexandrea Ravenelle, an assistant sociology professor at New York’s Mercy College and author of “Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy.” “But companies will keep trying to push the envelope to pay workers as little as possible.”

    The current political climate, with tech giants such as Facebook and Google on hot seats over privacy, abuse of customer data and other issues, has helped the workers’ quests.

    “We’re at a moment of reckoning for tech companies,” said Alex Rosenblat, a technology ethnographer at New York’s Data & Society Research Institute and author of “Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work.” “There’s a techlash, a broader understanding that tech companies have to be held accountable as political institutions rather than neutral forces for good.”

    The climate also includes more consumer awareness of labor issues in the on-demand economy. “People are realizing that you don’t just jump in an Uber and don’t have to think about who’s driving you and what they make,” Ravenelle said. “There’s a lot more attention to gig workers’ plight.”

    Instacart customers were dismayed to discover that their tips were not going to workers on top of their pay as a reward for good service.

    Sage Wilson, a spokesman for Working Washington, a labor-backed group that helped with the Instacart shoppers’ campaign, said many more gig workers have emerged with stories of similar experiences on other apps.

    “Pay transparency really seems to be an issue across many of these platforms,” he said. “I almost wonder if it’s part of the reason why these companies are building black box algorithmic pay models in the first place (so) you might not even know right away if you got a pay cut until you start seeing the weekly totals trending down.”

    Cases in point: DoorDash and Amazon also rifle the tip jar to subsidize contractors’ base pay, as Instacart did. DoorDash defended this, saying its pay model “provides transparency, consistency, and predictability” and has increased both satisfaction and retention of its “Dashers.”

    But Kristen Anderson of Concord, a social worker who works part-time for DoorDash to help with student loans, said that was not her experience. Her pay dropped dramatically after DoorDash started appropriating tips in 2017, she said. “Originally it was worth my time and now it’s not,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”

    Debi LaBell of San Carlos, who does weekend work for Instacart on top of a full-time job, has organized with others online over the tips issue.

    “This has been a maddening, frustrating and, at times, incredibly disheartening experience,” said Debi LaBell of San Carlos, who does weekend work for Instacart on top of a full-time job. “When I first started doing Instacart, I loved getting in my car to head to my first shop. These past few months, it has taken everything that I have to get motivated enough to do my shift.”

    Before each shopping trip, she hand-wrote notes to all her customers explaining the tips issue. She and other shoppers congregated online both to vent and to organize.

    Her hope now is that Instacart will invite shoppers like her to hear their experiences and ideas.

    There’s poetic justice in the fact that the same internet that allows gig companies to create widely dispersed marketplaces provided gig workers space to find solidarity with one another.

    “It’s like the internet taketh and giveth,” said Eric Lloyd, an attorney at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, which represents management, including some gig companies he wouldn’t name, in labor cases. “The internet gave rise to this whole new economy, giving businesses a way to build really innovative models, and it’s given workers new ways to advance their rights.”

    For California gig workers, even more changes are on the horizon in the wake of a ground-breaking California Supreme Court decision last April that redefined when to classify workers as employees versus independent contractors.

    Gig companies, labor leaders and lawmakers are holding meetings in Sacramento to thrash out legislative responses to the Dynamex decision. Options could range from more workers getting employment status to gig companies offering flexible benefits. Whatever happens, it’s sure to upend the status quo.

    Rather than piecemeal enforcement through litigation, arbitration and various government agencies such as unemployment agencies, it makes sense to come up with overall standards, Rosenblat said.

    “There’s a big need for comprehensive standards with an understanding of all the trade-offs,” she said. “We’re at a tipping point for change.”

    Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid

    #USA #Kalifornien #Gig-Economy #Ausbeutung

  • La Cour suprême américaine exclut la question de la nationalité du #recensement de 2020 [et refuse d’apporter des limites au #gerrymandering]
    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/06/27/la-cour-supreme-americaine-exclut-la-question-de-la-nationalite-du-recenseme

    Les arguments avancés par l’administration Trump pour justifier sa décision ne tenaient pas. Il s’agit d’un revers pour le président, qui s’est impliqué dans le dossier.

    La Cour suprême des Etats-Unis a infligé un revers, jeudi 27 juin, à l’administration Trump en lui interdisant d’ajouter une question sur la nationalité dans le prochain recensement de la population, prévu en 2020. Dans sa décision « Department of commerce v. New York », elle a estimé que les arguments avancés par le département du commerce, dont dépend le bureau du recensement, pour justifier sa décision ne tenaient pas.

    Il s’agit d’un revers pour le président républicain, qui s’est impliqué à plusieurs reprises dans le dossier. « Pouvez-vous imaginer un recensement dans lequel vous n’auriez pas le droit de dire si quelqu’un est Américain ou pas ? », « ce serait totalement ridicule », déclarait-il encore mi-juin. En mars 2018, l’administration Trump avait décidé de réintroduire une question sur la nationalité, abandonnée depuis le recensement de 1950, dans les formulaires pour le recensement de 2020. La décision, prise par le secrétaire d’Etat au commerce, Wilbur Ross, avait suscité un tollé chez les démocrates.

    Selon eux, la question risque d’intimider les étrangers en situation irrégulière et donc d’entraîner une sous-estimation des populations des Etats abritant de nombreux immigrés, qui s’avèrent être souvent démocrates. Une vingtaine d’Etats, comme la Californie ou New York, ainsi que des grandes villes, comme Chicago ou San Francisco, et des défenseurs des droits des étrangers ont saisi la justice, et un juge fédéral de New York a entamé l’examen de leur plainte le 5 novembre 2018. Le gouvernement a contre-attaqué devant la Cour suprême des Etats-Unis pour lui demander de circonscrire les preuves recevables par le juge new-yorkais, et notamment d’écarter des dépositions de certains responsables du secrétariat au commerce.

    Le bureau du recensement avait mis l’administration Trump en garde sur les conséquences négatives d’une telle question. Ses experts avaient évalué qu’au moins 1,6 million de personnes se garderaient de participer au recensement si on leur demandait leur nationalité.
    Ils ont depuis revu leurs estimations pour les porter à 6,5 millions de personnes (sur une population totale d’environ 320 millions), selon les documents judiciaires présentés à la Cour suprême. Le recensement, qui doit se tenir obligatoirement tous les dix ans selon la Constitution, conditionne l’octroi de 675 milliards de dollars de subventions fédérales et le nombre de sièges à la Chambre des représentants attribués à chaque Etat.

    Sans se prononcer sur le bien-fondé de la question, la Cour suprême a estimé que les justifications de Wilbur Ross étaient « artificielles ». « On nous a présenté une explication qui n’est pas cohérente avec ce que les archives révèlent du processus de décision et des priorités de l’administration », écrit-elle à une courte majorité (cinq juges sur neuf).

    Elle laisse toutefois la porte ouverte pour que le gouvernement Trump fournisse des explications plus convaincantes. Mais le calendrier est serré : les formulaires du recensement 2020 doivent être imprimés cet été. L’ACLU, la puissante organisation de défense des libertés civiles, a immédiatement salué « une victoire pour les immigrés et les communautés de couleur en Amérique ».

    Dans une autre décision, la Cour suprême des Etats-Unis a refusé de fixer des limites au gerrymandering, l’art subtil du découpage électoral destiné à favoriser le parti au pouvoir. Après avoir botté en touche à plusieurs reprises sur ce sujet, elle a refusé d’invalider deux cartes électorales, l’une en Caroline du Nord jugée trop favorable aux républicains, l’autre dans le Maryland qui avantageait les démocrates.
    La décision a été prise à une courte majorité : les cinq juges conservateurs ont estimé qu’il n’était pas du ressort des tribunaux de s’immiscer dans cette question politique. Leurs quatre collègues progressistes ont pris une position contraire.

  • En quête de reconnaissance faciale
    https://linc.cnil.fr/en-quete-de-reconnaissance-faciale

    Alors que les usages de la reconnaissance faciale à des fins sécuritaires se multiplient, de plus en plus de voix s’élèvent pour que ces nouvelles technologies soient mieux maîtrisées, encadrées et régulées. En Chine, des systèmes de reconnaissance faciale sont utilisés pour cibler une minorité ethnique ; outre-manche, un britannique se retrouve à payer une amende pour n’avoir pas voulu dévoiler son visage à la caméra ; à San Francisco, la municipalité décide de bannir ces dispositifs : l’actualité récente (...)

    #algorithme #CCTV #biométrie #facial #vidéo-surveillance #surveillance #discrimination

  • Facebook Takes a Step Into Education Software - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/technology/facebook-education-initiative-aims-to-help-children-learn-at-their-own-pace

    SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook, which transformed communication with its social networking service, now wants to make a similar impact on education.

    The Silicon Valley company announced on Thursday that it was working with a local charter school network, Summit Public Schools, to develop software that schools can use to help children learn at their own pace. The project has been championed by Mark Zucker

    berg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, and one of his top lieutenants, Chris Cox.

    “We’ve seen that there’s an opportunity to help apply our skills to the future of education, and we all wanted to find a way to help make an impact by doing what we do best — building software,” Mr. Cox wrote in a blog post announcing the initiative.❞

    “It’s really driven by this idea that we want to put learning in the hands of kids and the control back in the hands of kids,” Ms. Tavenner said in a telephone interview. The software, she said, allows students to work with teachers to create tailored lessons and projects. Teachers can also administer individualized quizzes that the software can grade and track.

    The platform, which is separate from the Facebook social network, is now being used by nine Summit schools and about 20 others. Ultimately, Ms. Tavenner said, “our motivation is to share it with everyone and anyone who wants it,” including other charters and public school districts. The software would be free for all users.

    Like Internet.org, Facebook’s latest education initiative is not quite philanthropy and not quite business. The company owns the rights to the contributions it makes to Summit’s original software and could use that to eventually enter the education software business.

    Mike Sego, the Facebook engineering director running the Summit software project, said making money was not an immediate goal. “Whenever I ask Mark, ‘Do I need to think of this as business?’ he always pushes back and says, ‘That shouldn’t be a priority right now. We should just continue making this better.’ ”

    #Facebook #Education #Summit

  • « Il est grand temps de reprendre la main sur les algorithmes qui nous gouvernent »
    https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2019/06/22/il-est-grand-temps-de-reprendre-la-main-sur-les-algorithmes-qui-nous-gouvern

    Le chercheur en informatique Hugues Bersini plaide dans une tribune au « Monde » pour un « codage citoyen », qui ferait des algorithmes les outils d’une gestion collective de notre existence commune. De très intéressantes expériences de reprise en main du big data et des technologies informatiques par le public et le politique sont en cours dans des villes telles que San Francisco, Boston ou Milton Keynes (en Grande-Bretagne). Boston est le lieu d’expérimentation algorithmique d’un groupe de (...)

    #algorithme #SmartCity #voiture #solutionnisme #domination

  • Face à la pénurie de logements, Google va aider les habitants de San Francisco
    https://www.latribune.fr/technos-medias/face-a-la-penurie-de-logements-google-va-aider-les-habitants-de-san-franci

    Google, un des plus gros employeurs de la région de San Francisco, a promis mercredi de consacrer 1 milliard de dollars pour aider à la construction d’habitations dans cette zone confrontée à une grave crise du logement.

    Les géants technologiques sont accusés d’être largement responsables de la flambée des prix de l’immobilier à San Francisco et dans la région, notamment la Silicon Valley, au sud de la ville.

    Le succès de la « tech » et l’implantation de groupes richissimes comme Google, Apple ou Facebook notamment, ont en effet attiré des dizaines de milliers d’ingénieurs informatiques payés avec des salaires mirobolants, qui ont mécaniquement fait bondir le coût de la vie dans la « Bay Area ».

    « Dans les dix prochaines années, nous allons transformer des terrains de Google, pour une valeur d’au moins 750 millions de dollars, actuellement prévus pour des bureaux et des commerces, en terrains pour (construire) des logements », a écrit son patron, Sundar Pichai, dans un blog.

    « Cela nous servira à soutenir le développement de 15.000 nouveaux logements pour tous les revenus dans la région de la Baie, y compris les foyers à revenus faibles et moyens », a-t-il précisé.

    « Nous espérons que cela soit utile pour tenter de régler le problème chronique du manque de logements abordables » pour les plus pauvres, a encore dit M. Pichai, précisant que Google allait aussi créer notamment « un fond d’investissement doté de 250 millions de dollars qui permettra d’encourager les promoteurs à construire 5.000 logements abordables ».

    • Remarque : les trois quarts du milliard ne sortent pas de la poche de Gg, il s’agit juste de réaffecter des terrains qui si je comprends bien resteront propriété de Gg ; c’est juste la nature du locataire qui changera…

      De même le statut du quart restant, fond d’investissement, ne permet pas réellement de comprendre le débours effectif de Gg.

      Bref, un joli milliard, tout rond pour la comm’.

  • Narcan Makes Fentanyl Overdoses Feel Safer to Some - The Atlantic
    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/06/narcan-makes-fentanyl-overdoses-feel-safer-users/591217

    The drug, which can shut down breathing in less than a minute, became the leading cause of opioid deaths in the United States in 2016. More and more drug users are seeking it out, craving its powerful high.

    Some of those users say they feel a measure of security because many of their peers carry naloxone, which can quickly restore their breathing if they overdose.

    Data suggest that in San Francisco, drug users may be reversing as many overdoses as paramedics—or more. In both cases, the numbers have risen sharply in recent years.

    Read: America’s health-care system is making the opioid crisis worse

    In 2018, San Francisco paramedics administered naloxone to 1,647 people, up from 980 two years earlier, according to numbers from the city’s emergency-response system.

    That compares with 1,658 naloxone-induced overdose reversals last year by laypeople, most of them drug users, according to self-reported data from the DOPE Project, a Bay Area overdose-prevention program run by the publicly funded Harm Reduction Coalition. That’s nearly double the 2016 figure.

    “People who use drugs are the primary witnesses to overdose,” says Eliza Wheeler, the national overdose-response strategist for the coalition. “So it would make sense that when they are equipped with naloxone, they are much more likely to reverse an overdose.”

    The widespread availability of naloxone has radically changed the culture of opioid use on the streets, Hogan said. “In the past, if you OD’d, man, it was like you were really rolling the dice.” Now, he said, people take naloxone for granted.

    “I feel like as long as there is Narcan around, the opiates can’t kill you,” says Nick Orlick, 26, referring to one of the brand names for the overdose-reversal drug.

    #Opioides #Overdoses #Naxolone

  • Reconnaissance faciale et pornographie : la dystopie en embuscade
    https://www.konbini.com/fr/techetinnovation/reconnaissance-faciale-et-pornographie-la-dystopie-en-embuscade

    Demain, le « World Wide Face »

    Ce qui importe, dans cette histoire, n’est pas tant que ce programmeur anonyme et son algorithme soient réels ou non. Ce qui importe, c’est qu’aujourd’hui, la démocratisation des algorithmes de machine learning (particulièrement dans le domaine de la reconnaissance faciale), l’augmentation de la puissance des processeurs, la chute du coût de la mémoire et les incommensurables volumes de données personnelles que nous dispersons à chaque minute passée en ligne permettent théoriquement à une petite équipe, dotée de quelques connaissances en programmation, de développer un tel système en quelques mois, depuis une chambre. L’idée qu’un type développe dans son coin un système aussi nuisible est plausible (un service similaire existe déjà d’ailleurs, au moins).

    En 2016, déjà, le Guardian s’inquiétait du succès d’une application mobile de reconnaissance faciale russe, FindFace, qui annonçait « la fin de l’anonymat public ». Depuis, d’autres algorithmes sont disponibles. Plus puissants, mieux entraînés. Face à ce constat, la seule chose raisonnable à faire serait de sortir la tête du guidon de l’innovation et de réfléchir. Réfléchir sur la montée en gamme de la biométrie et la reconnaissance faciale massive automatisée et ce qu’elle signifie pour la vie privée, l’anonymat et le consentement. Sur son invasion lente mais progressive de tous les secteurs de notre vie, du trottoir à l’aéroport en passant par la salle de classe. Sur la création, ici et là, de réservoirs à données biométriques géants, malgré les risques de sécurité que la centralisation de données sensibles implique.

    Il faut tenter d’anticiper, comme l’a magistralement fait Olivier Ertzscheid (auteur du blog affordance.info) le 3 juin, les scénarios catastrophe d’une société où le visage s’installe au centre des processus régaliens (police et justice, notamment) en même temps qu’il devient monnaie d’échange et de spéculation au sein du capitalisme de surveillance. « Bienvenue dans le World Wide Face », écrit Ertzscheid, ce nouveau paradigme biométrique qui nous ferait regretter le bon vieux temps des données impersonnelles.

    Rappelons quelques évidences. La reconnaissance faciale, outil statistique, génère des faux positifs à la chaîne (au Royaume-Uni, on frôle les 100 % d’erreur pendant les tests). La reconnaissance faciale, parfois entraînée sur des données biaisées, discrimine des populations déjà marginalisées (on se souviendra que les systèmes de Google avaient pour péché mignon, courant 2015, de confondre les Noirs avec des gorilles). Parfaite, elle serait implacable ; imparfaite, heureusement, elle n’est que terrifiante.

    Imaginez les conséquences d’un faux positif de l’algorithme d’identification d’actrices porno pour une femme lambda, qui ressemblerait un peu trop à l’une d’elles aux yeux des machines. Imaginez son compte Facebook ou Instagram lié par la myopie algorithmique à un profil Pornhub. Rappelez-vous qu’on ne négocie pas avec une fonction mathématique, même si celle-ci vous pourrit la vie par erreur. « Toute identification, martèle Ertzscheid, est d’abord une désignation. » Et toute désignation porte en soi la promesse de la stigmatisation. Que vous soyez identifié correctement ou pas importe peu, une fois que le sceau est apposé.

    Vendue comme utopie d’une police incontestable (car forcément neutre, transparente et dépassionnée), la reconnaissance faciale automatisée n’est rien de tout cela. Elle est un outil au service d’un projet politique obsédé par la surveillance, le suivi, le triage. Elle n’a rien d’inévitable, encore moins d’urgent (la mairie de San Francisco vient tout simplement de l’interdire) dès lors que l’on s’intéresse davantage à ses dérives qu’à ses bénéfices. La tête dans le guidon du progrès technique, nous risquerions de ne pas voir venir le précipice.

    #Reconnaissance_faciale #Porno #Culture_du_viol #Revenge_porn #Programmeurs_tarés

  • #Pesticides : l’#orange amère de Californie - Libération
    https://www.liberation.fr/planete/2019/05/31/pesticides-l-orange-amere-de-californie_1730941
    https://medias.liberation.fr/photo/1224073-les-etats-unis-vus-d-avion.jpg?modified_at=1559327803&

    Aux #États-Unis, l’utilisation du #chlorpyriphos-éthyl est interdite en usage résidentiel depuis 2000. Et son usage agricole aurait été également interdit si le directeur de l’Environmental Protection Agency (l’Agence fédérale de protection environnementale, dite #EPA) n’en avait décidé autrement. Fraîchement nommé par Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt a annulé la procédure à quelques jours de l’échéance, le 29 mars 2017, jugeant « insuffisantes » les preuves scientifiques à l’encontre du pesticide. Une cour d’appel fédérale siégeant à San Francisco a donné trois mois, à compter du 19 avril, pour que l’EPA rende une décision argumentée sur l’interdiction ou non du pesticide à usage agricole. En septembre, le Sénat de Californie votera sur une éventuelle suspension de l’utilisation du chlorpyrifos-éthyl pour deux ans, à l’échelle de son Etat. En attendant, les agriculteurs continuent d’avoir recours au chlorpyriphos-éthyl. Son usage a baissé de plus de 50 % entre 2005 et 2016. Mais aux alentours de Lindsay, il reste le quatrième pesticide le plus utilisé sur les orangers, selon le dernier rapport disponible (2016).

    #santé #justice_environnementale #agriculture #maraîchage

  • ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/nyc-taxis-medallions-suicides.html


    Mohammed Hoque with his three children in their studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens.

    May 19, 2019 - The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

    The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

    After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

    Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

    Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

    These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. The leaders of nonprofit credit unions became multimillionaires. Medallion brokers grew rich enough to buy yachts and waterfront properties. One of the most successful bankers hired the rap star Nicki Minaj to perform at a family party.

    But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.

    The practices were strikingly similar to those behind the housing market crash that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown: Banks and loosely regulated private lenders wrote risky loans and encouraged frequent refinancing; drivers took on debt they could not afford, under terms they often did not understand.

    Some big banks even entered the taxi industry in the aftermath of the housing crash, seeking a new market, with new borrowers.

    The combination of easy money, eager borrowers and the lure of a rare asset helped prices soar far above what medallions were really worth. Some industry leaders fed the frenzy by purposefully overpaying for medallions in order to inflate prices, The Times found.

    Between 2002 and 2014, the price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million from $200,000, even though city records showed that driver incomes barely changed.

    About 4,000 drivers bought medallions in that period, records show. They were excited to buy, but they were enticed by a dubious premise.

    What Actually Happened to New York’s Taxi DriversMay 28, 2019

    After the medallion market collapsed, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to fund a bailout, and earlier this year, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, shut down the committee overseeing the taxi industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    Over 10 months, The Times interviewed 450 people, built a database of every medallion sale since 1995 and reviewed thousands of individual loans and other documents, including internal bank records and confidential profit-sharing agreements.

    The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.

    A Pakistani immigrant who thought he was just buying a car ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan that left him unable to pay rent. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on his loan application; he eventually lost his medallion. A Haitian immigrant who worked to exhaustion to make his monthly payments discovered he had been paying only interest and went bankrupt.

    Abdur Rahim, who is from Bangladesh, is one of several cab drivers who allege they were duped into signing exploitative loans. 
    It is unclear if the practices violated any laws. But after reviewing The Times’s findings, experts said the methods were among the worst that have been used since the housing crash.

    “I don’t think I could concoct a more predatory scheme if I tried,” said Roger Bertling, the senior instructor at Harvard Law School’s clinic on predatory lending and consumer protection. “This was modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Lenders developed their techniques in New York but spread them to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere, transforming taxi industries across the United States.

    In interviews, lenders denied wrongdoing. They noted that regulators approved their practices, and said some borrowers made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. They said some drivers were happy to use climbing medallion values as collateral to take out cash, and that those who sold their medallions at the height of the market made money.

    The lenders said they believed medallion values would keep increasing, as they almost always had. No one, they said, could have predicted Uber and Lyft would emerge to undercut the business.

    “People love to blame banks for things that happen because they’re big bad banks,” said Robert Familant, the former head of Progressive Credit Union, a small nonprofit that specialized in medallion loans. “We didn’t do anything, in my opinion, other than try to help small businesspeople become successful.”

    Mr. Familant made about $30 million in salary and deferred payouts during the bubble, including $4.8 million in bonuses and incentives in 2014, the year it burst, according to disclosure forms.

    Meera Joshi, who joined the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011 and became chairwoman in 2014, said it was not the city’s job to regulate lending. But she acknowledged that officials saw red flags and could have done something.

    “There were lots of players, and lots of people just watched it happen. So the T.L.C. watched it happen. The lenders watched it happen. The borrowers watched it happen as their investment went up, and it wasn’t until it started falling apart that people started taking action and pointing fingers,” said Ms. Joshi, who left the commission in March. “It was a party. Why stop it?”

    Every day, about 250,000 people hail a New York City yellow taxi. Most probably do not know they are participating in an unconventional economic system about as old as the Empire State Building.

    The city created taxi medallions in 1937. Unlicensed cabs crowded city streets, so officials designed about 12,000 specialized tin plates and made it illegal to operate a taxi without one bolted to the hood of the car. The city sold each medallion for $10.

    People who bought medallions could sell them, just like any other asset. The only restriction: Officials designated roughly half as “independent medallions” and eventually required that those always be owned by whoever was driving that cab.

    Over time, as yellow taxis became symbols of New York, a cutthroat industry grew around them. A few entrepreneurs obtained most of the nonindependent medallions and built fleets that controlled the market. They were family operations largely based in the industrial neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.

    Allegations of corruption, racism and exploitation dogged the industry. Some fleet bosses were accused of cheating drivers. Some drivers refused to go outside Manhattan or pick up black and Latino passengers. Fleet drivers typically worked 60 hours a week, made less than minimum wage and received no benefits, according to city studies.

    Still, driving could serve as a path to the middle class. Drivers could save to buy an independent medallion, which would increase their earnings and give them an asset they could someday sell for a retirement nest egg.

    Those who borrowed money to buy a medallion typically had to submit a large down payment and repay within five to 10 years.

    The conservative lending strategy produced modest returns. The city did not release new medallions for almost 60 years, and values slowly climbed, hitting $100,000 in 1985 and $200,000 in 1997.

    “It was a safe and stable asset, and it provided a good life for those of us who were lucky enough to buy them,” said Guy Roberts, who began driving in 1979 and eventually bought medallions and formed a fleet. “Not an easy life, but a good life.”

    “And then,” he said, “everything changed.”

    – Before coming to America, Mohammed Hoque lived comfortably in Chittagong, a city on Bangladesh’s southern coast. He was a serious student and a gifted runner, despite a small and stocky frame. His father and grandfather were teachers; he said he surpassed them, becoming an education official with a master’s degree in management. He supervised dozens of schools and traveled on a government-issued motorcycle. In 2004, when he was 33, he married Fouzia Mahabub. -

    That same year, several of his friends signed up for the green card lottery, and their thirst for opportunity was contagious. He applied, and won.

    His wife had an uncle in Jamaica, Queens, so they went there. They found a studio apartment. Mr. Hoque wanted to work in education, but he did not speak enough English. A friend recommended the taxi industry.

    It was an increasingly common move for South Asian immigrants. In 2005, about 40 percent of New York cabbies were born in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, according to the United States Census Bureau. Over all, just 9 percent were born in the United States.

    Mr. Hoque and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh, and have rented the same apartment in Queens since 2005.

    Mr. Hoque joined Taxifleet Management, a large fleet run by the Weingartens, a Russian immigrant family whose patriarchs called themselves the “Three Wise Men.”

    He worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. On a good day, he said, he brought home $100. He often felt lonely on the road, and he developed back pain from sitting all day and diabetes, medical records show.

    He could have worked fewer shifts. He also could have moved out of the studio. But he drove as much as feasible and spent as little as possible. He had heard the city would soon be auctioning off new medallions. He was saving to buy one.

    Andrew Murstein, left, with his father, Alvin.CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    In the early 2000s, a new generation took power in New York’s cab industry. They were the sons of longtime industry leaders, and they had new ideas for making money.

    Few people represented the shift better than Andrew Murstein.

    Mr. Murstein was the grandson of a Polish immigrant who bought one of the first medallions, built one of the city’s biggest fleets and began informally lending to other buyers in the 1970s. Mr. Murstein attended business school and started his career at Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers, the investment banks.

    When he joined the taxi business, he has said, he pushed his family to sell off many medallions and to establish a bank to focus on lending. Medallion Financial went public in 1996. Its motto was, “In niches, there are riches.”

    Dozens of industry veterans said Mr. Murstein and his father, Alvin, were among those who helped to move the industry to less conservative lending practices. The industry veterans said the Mursteins, as well as others, started saying medallion values would always rise and used that idea to focus on lending to lower-income drivers, which was riskier but more profitable.

    The strategy began to be used by the industry’s other major lenders — Progressive Credit Union, Melrose Credit Union and Lomto Credit Union, all family-run nonprofits that made essentially all their money from medallion loans, according to financial disclosures.

    “We didn’t want to be the one left behind,” said Monte Silberger, Lomto’s controller and then chief financial officer from 1999 to 2017.

    The lenders began accepting smaller down payments. By 2013, many medallion buyers were not handing over any down payment at all, according to an analysis of buyer applications submitted to the city.

    “It got to a point where we didn’t even check their income or credit score,” Mr. Silberger said. “It didn’t matter.”

    Lenders also encouraged existing borrowers to refinance and take out more money when medallion prices rose, according to interviews with dozens of borrowers and loan officers. There is no comprehensive data, but bank disclosures suggest that thousands of owners refinanced.

    Industry veterans said it became common for owners to refinance to buy a house or to put children through college. “You’d walk into the bank and walk out 30 minutes later with an extra $200,000,” said Lou Bakalar, a broker who arranged loans.

    Yvon Augustin has been living with help from his children ever since he declared bankruptcy and lost his taxi medallion.

    Some pointed to the refinancing to argue that irresponsible borrowers fueled the crisis. “Medallion owners were misusing it,” said Aleksey Medvedovskiy, a fleet owner who also worked as a broker. “They used it as an A.T.M.”

    As lenders loosened standards, they increased returns. Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs — origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases. Many lenders also made borrowers split their loan and pay a much higher rate on the second loan, documents show.

    Lenders also extended loan lengths. Instead of requiring repayment in five or 10 years, they developed deals that lasted as long as 50 years, locking in decades of interest payments. And some wrote interest-only loans that could continue forever.

    “We couldn’t figure out why the company was doing so many interest-only loans,” said Michelle Pirritano, a Medallion Financial loan analyst from 2007 to 2011. “It was a good revenue stream, but it didn’t really make sense as a loan. I mean, it wasn’t really a loan, because it wasn’t being repaid.”

    Almost every loan reviewed by The Times included a clause that spiked the interest rate to as high as 24 percent if it was not repaid in three years. Lenders included the clause — called a “balloon” — so that borrowers almost always had to extend the loan, possibly at a higher rate than in the original terms, and with additional fees.

    Yvon Augustin was caught in one of those loans. He bought a medallion in 2006, a decade after emigrating from Haiti. He said he paid $2,275 every month — more than half his income, he said — and thought he was paying off the loan. But last year, his bank used the balloon to demand that he repay everything. That is when he learned he had been paying only the interest, he said.

    Mr. Augustin, 69, declared bankruptcy and lost his medallion. He lives off assistance from his children.

    During the global financial crisis, Eugene Haber, a lawyer for the taxi industry, started getting calls from bankers he had never met.

    Mr. Haber had written a template for medallion loans in the 1970s. By 2008, his thick mustache had turned white, and he thought he knew everybody in the industry. Suddenly, new bankers began calling his suite in a Long Island office park. Capital One, Signature Bank, New York Commercial Bank and others wanted to issue medallion loans, he said.

    Some of the banks were looking for new borrowers after the housing market collapsed, Mr. Haber said. “They needed somewhere else to invest,” he said. He said he represented some banks at loan signings but eventually became embittered because he believed banks were knowingly lending to people who could not repay.

    Instead of lending directly, the big banks worked through powerful industry players. They enlisted large fleet owners and brokers — especially Neil Greenbaum, Richard Chipman, Savas Konstantinides, Roman Sapino and Basil Messados — to use the banks’ money to lend to medallion buyers. In return, the owners and brokers received a cut of the monthly payments and sometimes an additional fee.

    The fleet owners and brokers, who technically issued the loans, did not face the same scrutiny as banks.

    “They did loans that were frankly insane,” said Larry Fisher, who from 2003 to 2016 oversaw medallion lending at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry. “It contributed to the price increases and put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to keep up.”

    Evgeny Freidman, a fleet owner, has said he purposely overbid for taxi medallions in order to drive up their value.CreditSasha Maslov
    Still, Mr. Fisher said, Melrose followed lending rules. “A lot of people tend to blame others for their own misfortune,” he said. “If they want to blame the lender for the medallion going down the tubes the way it has, I think they’re misplaced.”

    Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner and the broker and lender who arranged Mr. Hoque’s loans, said every loan issued by his company abided by federal and state banking guidelines. “I am very sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families who are seeking a better life in this country and in this city,” said Mr. Konstantinides, who added that he was also an immigrant.

    Walter Rabin, who led Capital One’s medallion lending division between 2007 and 2012 and has led Signature Bank’s medallion lending division since, said he was one of the industry’s most conservative lenders. He said he could not speak for the brokers and fleet owners with whom he worked.

    Mr. Rabin and other Signature executives denied fault for the market collapse and blamed the city for allowing ride-hail companies to enter with little regulation. “It’s the City of New York that took the biggest advantage of the drivers,” said Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and chief executive of Signature. “It’s not the banks.”

    New York Commercial Bank said in a statement that it began issuing medallion loans before the housing crisis and that they were a very small part of its business. The bank did not engage in risky lending practices, a spokesman said.

    Mr. Messados said in an interview that he disagreed with interest-only loans and other one-sided terms. But he said he was caught between banks developing the loans and drivers clamoring for them. “They were insisting on this,” he said. “What are you supposed to do? Say, ‘I’m not doing the sale?’”

    Several lenders challenged the idea that borrowers were unsophisticated. They said that some got better deals by negotiating with multiple lenders at once.

    Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Chipman and Mr. Sapino declined to comment, as did Capital One.

    Some fleet owners worked to manipulate prices. In the most prominent example, Evgeny Freidman, a brash Russian immigrant who owned so many medallions that some called him “The Taxi King,” said he purposefully overpaid for medallions sold at city auctions. He reasoned that the higher prices would become the industry standard, making the medallions he already owned worth more. Mr. Freidman, who was partners with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, disclosed the plan in a 2012 speech at Yeshiva University. He recently pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud. He declined to comment.

    As medallion prices kept increasing, the industry became strained. Drivers had to work longer hours to make monthly payments. Eventually, loan records show, many drivers had to use almost all their income on payments.

    “The prices got to be ridiculous,” said Vincent Sapone, the retired manager of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an owner association. “When it got close to $1 million, nobody was going to pay that amount of money, unless they came from another country. Nobody from Brooklyn was going to pay that.”

    Some drivers have alleged in court that lenders tricked them into signing loans.

    Muhammad Ashraf, who is not fluent in English, said he thought he was getting a loan to purchase a car but ended up in debt to buy a taxi medallion instead.

    Muhammad Ashraf, a Pakistani immigrant, alleged that a broker, Heath Candero, duped him into a $780,000 interest-only loan. He said in an interview in Urdu that he could not speak English fluently and thought he was just signing a loan to buy a car. He said he found out about the loan when his bank sued him for not fully repaying. The bank eventually decided not to pursue a case against Mr. Ashraf. He also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Candero. That case was dismissed. A lawyer for Mr. Candero declined to comment.

    Abdur Rahim, a Bangladeshi immigrant, alleged that his lender, Bay Ridge Credit Union, inserted hidden fees. In an interview, he added he was told to lie on his loan application. The application, reviewed by The Times, said he made $128,389, but he said his tax return showed he made about $25,000. In court, Bay Ridge has denied there were hidden fees and said Mr. Rahim was “confusing the predatory-lending statute with a mere bad investment.” The credit union declined to comment.

    Several employees of lenders said they were pushed to write loans, encouraged by bonuses and perks such as tickets to sporting events and free trips to the Bahamas.

    They also said drivers almost never had lawyers at loan closings. Borrowers instead trusted their broker to represent them, even though, unbeknown to them, the broker was often getting paid by the bank.

    Stan Zurbin, who between 2009 and 2012 did consulting work for a lender that issued medallion loans, said that as prices rose, lenders in the industry increasingly lent to immigrants.

    “They didn’t have 750 credit scores, let’s just say,” he said. “A lot of them had just come into the country. A lot of them just had no idea what they were signing.”

    The $1 million medallion
    Video
    Mrs. Hoque did not want her husband to buy a medallion. She wanted to use their savings to buy a house. They had their first child in 2008, and they planned to have more. They needed to leave the studio apartment, and she thought a home would be a safer investment.

    But Mr. Hoque could not shake the idea, especially after several friends bought medallions at the city’s February 2014 auction.

    One friend introduced him to a man called “Big Savas.” It was Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner who also had a brokerage and a lending company, Mega Funding.

    The call came a few weeks later. A medallion owner had died, and the family was selling for $1 million.

    Mr. Hoque said he later learned the $50,000 he paid up front was just for taxes. Mega eventually requested twice that amount for fees and a down payment, records show. Mr. Hoque said he maxed out credit cards and borrowed from a dozen friends and relatives.

    Fees and interest would bring the total repayment to more than $1.7 million, documents show. It was split into two loans, both issued by Mega with New York Commercial Bank. The loans made him pay $5,000 a month — most of the $6,400 he could earn as a medallion owner.

    Mohammed Hoque’s Medallion Loans Consumed Most of His Taxi Revenue
    After paying his two medallion loans and business costs, Mr. Hoque had about $1,400 left over each month to pay the rent on his studio apartment in Queens and cover his living expenses.

    Estimated monthly revenue $11,845

    Gas $1,500

    Income after expenses $1,400

    Vehicle maintenance $1,300

    Medallion loan 1 $4,114

    Insurance $1,200

    Car loan $650

    Credit card fees $400

    Medallion loan 2 $881

    Other work-related expenses $400

    By the time the deal closed in July 2014, Mr. Hoque had heard of a new company called Uber. He wondered if it would hurt the business, but nobody seemed to be worried.

    As Mr. Hoque drove to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s downtown office for final approval of the purchase, he fantasized about becoming rich, buying a big house and bringing his siblings to America. After a commission official reviewed his application and loan records, he said he was ushered into the elegant “Taxi of Tomorrow” room. An official pointed a camera. Mr. Hoque smiled.

    “These are little cash cows running around the city spitting out money,” Mr. Murstein said, beaming in a navy suit and pink tie.

    He did not mention he was quietly leaving the business, a move that would benefit him when the market collapsed.

    By the time of the appearance, Medallion Financial had been cutting the number of medallion loans on its books for years, according to disclosures it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Murstein later said the company started exiting the business and focusing on other ventures before 2010.

    Mr. Murstein declined numerous interview requests. He also declined to answer some written questions, including why he promoted medallions while exiting the business. In emails and through a spokesman, he acknowledged that Medallion Financial reduced down payments but said it rarely issued interest-only loans or charged borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    “Many times, we did not match what our competitors were willing to do and in retrospect, thankfully, we lost the business,” he wrote to The Times.

    Interviews with three former staffers, and a Times review of loan documents that were filed as part of lawsuits brought by Medallion Financial against borrowers, indicate the company issued many interest-only loans and routinely included a provision allowing it to charge borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    Other lenders also left the taxi industry or took precautions long before the market collapsed.

    The credit unions specializing in the industry kept making new loans. But between 2010 and 2014, they sold the loans to other financial institutions more often than in the previous five years, disclosure forms show. Progressive Credit Union, run by Mr. Familant, sold loans off almost twice as often, the forms show. By 2012, that credit union was selling the majority of the loans it issued.

    In a statement, Mr. Familant said the selling of loans was a standard banking practice that did not indicate a lack of confidence in the market.

    Several banks used something called a confession of judgment. It was an obscure document in which the borrower admitted defaulting on the loan — even before taking out any money at all — and authorized the bank to do whatever it wanted to collect.

    Larry Fisher was the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry, from 2003 to 2016.
    Congress has banned that practice in consumer loans, but not in business loans, which is how lenders classified medallion deals. Many states have barred it in business loans, too, but New York is not among them.

    Even as some lenders quietly braced for the market to fall, prices kept rising, and profits kept growing.

    By 2014, many of the people who helped create the bubble had made millions of dollars and invested it elsewhere.

    Medallion Financial started focusing on lending to R.V. buyers and bought a professional lacrosse team and a Nascar team, painting the car to look like a taxi. Mr. Murstein and his father made more than $42 million between 2002 and 2014, disclosures show. In 2015, Ms. Minaj, the rap star, performed at his son’s bar mitzvah.

    The Melrose C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, had the highest base salary of any large state-chartered credit union leader in America in 2013 and 2015, records show. His medallion lending supervisor, Mr. Fisher, also made millions.

    It is harder to tell how much fleet owners and brokers made, but in recent years news articles have featured some of them with new boats and houses.

    Mr. Messados’s bank records, filed in a legal case, show that by 2013, he had more than $50 million in non-taxi assets, including three homes and a yacht.

    The bubble bursts

    At least eight drivers have committed suicide, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans.
    The medallion bubble burst in late 2014. Uber and Lyft may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for this article, including many lenders, said inflated prices and risky lending practices would have caused a collapse even if ride-hailing had never been invented.

    At the market’s height, medallion buyers were typically earning about $5,000 a month and paying about $4,500 to their loans, according to an analysis by The Times of city data and loan documents. Many owners could make their payments only by refinancing when medallion values increased, which was unsustainable, some loan officers said.

    City data shows that since Uber entered New York in 2011, yellow cab revenue has decreased by about 10 percent per cab, a significant bite for low-earning drivers but a small drop compared with medallion values, which initially rose and then fell by 90 percent.

    As values fell, borrowers asked for breaks. But many lenders went the opposite direction. They decided to leave the business and called in their loans.

    They used the confessions to get hundreds of judgments that would allow them to take money from bank accounts, court records show. Some tried to get borrowers to give up homes or a relative’s assets. Others seized medallions and quickly resold them for profit, while still charging the original borrowers fees and extra interest. Several drivers have alleged in court that their lenders ordered them to buy life insurance.

    Many lenders hired a debt collector, Anthony Medina, to seize medallions from borrowers who missed payments.

    The scars left on cabs after medallions were removed.

    Mr. Medina left notes telling borrowers they had to give the lender “relief” to get their medallions back. The notes, which were reviewed by The Times, said the seizure was “authorized by vehicle apprehension unit.” Some drivers said Mr. Medina suggested he was a police officer and made them meet him at a park at night and pay $550 extra in cash.

    One man, Jean Demosthenes, a 64-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not speak English, said in an interview in Haitian Creole that Mr. Medina cornered him in Midtown, displayed a gun and took his car.

    In an interview, Mr. Medina denied threatening anyone with a gun. He said he requested cash because drivers who had defaulted could not be trusted to write good checks. He said he met drivers at parks and referred to himself as the vehicle apprehension unit because he wanted to hide his identity out of fear he could be targeted by borrowers.

    “You’re taking words from people that are deadbeats and delinquent people. Of course, they don’t want to see me,” he said. “I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the messenger from the bank.”

    Some lenders, especially Signature Bank, have let borrowers out of their loans for one-time payments of about $250,000. But to get that money, drivers have had to find new loans. Mr. Greenbaum, a fleet owner, has provided many of those loans, sometimes at interest rates of up to 15 percent, loan documents and interviews showed.

    New York Commercial Bank said in its statement it also had modified some loans.

    Other drivers lost everything. Most of the more than 950 owners who declared bankruptcy had to forfeit their medallions. Records indicate many were bought by hedge funds hoping for prices to rise. For now, cabs sit unused.

    Jean Demosthenes said his medallion was repossessed by a man with a gun. The man denied that he was armed.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, has asked the city to bail out owners or refund auction purchasers. Others have urged the city to pressure banks to forgive loans or soften terms.

    After reviewing The Times’s findings, Deepak Gupta, a former top official at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the New York Attorney General’s Office should investigate lenders.

    Mr. Gupta also said the state should close the loophole that let lenders classify medallion deals as business loans, even though borrowers had to guarantee them with everything they owned. Consumer loans have far more disclosure rules and protections.

    “These practices were indisputably predatory and would be illegal if they were considered consumer loans, rather than business loans,” he said.

    Last year, amid eight known suicides of drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans, the city passed a temporary cap on ride-hailing cars, created a task force to study the industry and directed the city taxi commission to do its own analysis of the debt crisis.

    Earlier this year, the Council eliminated the committee overseeing the industry after its chairman, Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” The speaker, Mr. Johnson, said, “The vast majority of the legislative work that we have been looking at has already been completed.”

    In a statement, a council spokesman said the committee’s duties had been transferred to the Committee on Transportation. “The Council is working to do as much as it can legislatively to help all drivers,” the spokesman said.

    As of last week, no one had been appointed to the task force.

    On the last day of 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Hoque brought their third child home from the hospital.

    Mr. Hoque cleared space for the boy’s crib, pushing aside his plastic bags of T-shirts and the fan that cooled the studio. He looked around. He could not believe he was still living in the same room.

    His loan had quickly faltered. He could not make the payments and afford rent, and his medallion was seized. Records show he paid more than $12,000 to Mega, and he said he paid another $550 to Mr. Medina to get it back. He borrowed from friends, promising it would not happen again. Then it happened four more times, he said.

    Mr. Konstantinides, the broker, said in his statement that he met with Mr. Hoque many times and twice modified one of his loans in order to lower his monthly payments. He also said he gave Mr. Hoque extra time to make some payments.

    In all, between the initial fees, monthly payments and penalties after the seizures, Mr. Hoque had paid about $400,000 into the medallion by the beginning of this year.

    But he still owed $915,000 more, plus interest, and he did not know what to do. Bankruptcy would cost money, ruin his credit and remove his only income source. And it would mean a shameful end to years of hard work. He believed his only choice was to keep working and to keep paying.

    His cab was supposed to be his ticket to money and freedom, but instead it seemed like a prison cell. Every day, he got in before the sun rose and stayed until the sky began to darken. Mr. Hoque, now 48, tried not to think about home, about what he had given up and what he had dreamed about.

    “It’s an unhuman life,” he said. “I drive and drive and drive. But I don’t know what my destination is.”

    [Read Part 2 of The Times’s investigation: As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money]

    Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Hillinger, Derek M. Norman, Elisha Brown, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Pierre-Antoine Louis and Sameen Amin. Doris Burke and Susan Beachy contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter at @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Opinion | America’s Cities Are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals. - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/opinion/california-housing-nimby.html

    To live in California at this time is to experience every day the cryptic phrase that George W. Bush once used to describe the invasion of Iraq: “Catastrophic success.” The economy here is booming, but no one feels especially good about it. When the cost of living is taken into account, billionaire-brimming California ranks as the most poverty-stricken state, with a fifth of the population struggling to get by. Since 2010, migration out of California has surged.

    The basic problem is the steady collapse of livability. Across my home state, traffic and transportation is a developing-world nightmare. Child care and education seem impossible for all but the wealthiest. The problems of affordable housing and homelessness have surpassed all superlatives — what was a crisis is now an emergency that feels like a dystopian showcase of American inequality.

    #états-unis #Californie #succès_catastrophique #pauvreté #inégalité #dystopie

  • La situation des classes laborieuses aux États-Unis d’Amérique 19 Mai 2019 Librairie Tropiques
    http://www.librairie-tropiques.fr/2019/05/la-situation-des-classes-laborieuses-aux-etats-unis-d-amerique.h

    Présentation par Nat London d’un nouveau livre de Mary-Alice Waters, publié par les éditions Pathfinder .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAHT4r7ay-g

    Déjà publié en anglais et en espagnol, à paraître bientôt en français, ce livre fait l’état des conditions actuelles de vie, de la renaissance et des perspectives de lutte d’un des plus importants secteurs de la classe ouvrière dans le monde aujourd’hui :

    « Vous ne pouvez pas comprendre ce qui se passe aux États-Unis sans comprendre la dévastation des vies des familles de travailleurs dans des régions comme la Virginie occidentale, et l’augmentation considérable des inégalités de classe depuis la crise de 2008. »

    Un géant a commencé à bouger...
    
Hillary Clinton les appelle « les déplorables » qui habitent des régions « reculées » entre New York et San Francisco. Mais des dizaines de milliers de professeurs et de personnels des écoles de Virginie occidentale, d’Oklahoma et au-delà ont montré l’exemple par leurs grèves victorieuses en 2018. Les travailleurs à travers la Floride se sont mobilisés et ont gagné le rétablissement du droit de vote pour plus d’un millions d’anciens prisonniers.

    S’appuyant sur les meilleures traditions de lutte des opprimés et des producteurs exploités de toutes les couleurs de peau et origines nationales aux US, ils ont lutté pour la dignité et le respect pour eux-mêmes, pour leurs familles et pour tous les travailleurs.

    #usa, #Nat_London, #Pathfinder, #Working_Class, #communisme, #marxisme #GiletsJaunes #Révoltes #donald_trump

  • Une première interdiction contre la reconnaissance faciale
    https://www.zdnet.fr/actualites/une-premiere-interdiction-contre-la-reconnaissance-faciale-39884651.htm

    Technologie : La reconnaissance faciale fait débat, en raison notamment de ses biais. San Francisco prend position et devient la première ville à interdire à la police d’utiliser ces technologies. La première, mais certainement pas la dernière... La ville de San Francisco a approuvé mardi une ordonnance interdisant au service de police et aux autres services municipaux d’utiliser la technologie de reconnaissance faciale sur les résidents. Il s’agit de la première interdiction ciblant cette (...)

    #algorithme #biométrie #facial #surveillance #SecureJustice

  • Housing act gives purchase power to San Francisco nonprofits - Shareable
    https://www.shareable.net/housing-act-gives-purchase-power-san-francisco-nonprofits

    The San Francisco Bay Area has been experiencing a housing affordability crisis for quite some time now. Homelessness has reached unprecedented levels, evictions have skyrocketed, and many people are finding it difficult to live in the cities they work in. It’s the magnitude of this crisis which compelled San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to unanimously pass a piece of legislation this month that could give a big boost to affordable housing in the Bay Area.

    The Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, or “COPA,” is the result of years of organizing by housing rights organizations. The act makes it easier for housing nonprofits (including land trusts) to compete in a market that is currently dominated by giant developers and speculators.

    COPA does this through two policies: the right of first offer and the right of first refusal. The former requires landlords who are selling privately owned properties with three or more units (or any properties that are zoned as such) to first offer their property to local housing nonprofits before they go to the open market. The right of first refusal gives housing nonprofits the right to match the sale price of any of these properties that do make it to market — meaning as long as they are paying market rate, nonprofits will be given priority.

    “We have people that have lived here for generations and who are being priced out of the city because of a massive influx in wealth,” Ian Fregosi told Shareable. “And so we can’t really just sit back and let the market run its course.”

    Fregosi is a legislative aide to San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who authored COPA. The overwhelming support for this act is a consequence of the housing affordability crisis in San Francisco, a city which has seen its stock of affordable housing stagnate in recent years.

    Currently, housing nonprofits are subject to a variety of limitations that make it difficult to compete with cash buyers.

    “In many cases, the nonprofit never gets a chance to really bid on the property because they have to deal with a lot of other factors,” Fregosi explained. “They have to get funding from multiple sources … to be able to make a bid in the first place, for example. These things take time.”

    But COPA shifts this dynamic by requiring sellers to notify a predetermined list of local housing nonprofits before they put their property to market. The act would give the nonprofits five days to respond and then an additional 25 days to make a concrete offer to the property owner, a time window that could make a substantial difference. Proponents of the act hope it will begin to address some of the affordable housing shortages in the city.

    But despite making nonprofits more competitive, COPA leaves a city still gripped by market forces. Sellers are under no obligation to sell their properties to nonprofits, so the latter can still be easily outbid by buyers who have more money.

    A more recent move, also in Washington D.C, is the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA), which gives the District itself a chance to purchase units if the tenants cannot. DOPA was passed in late 2018, so it’s too soon to know how successful the law will be, but over its forty-year lifespan, TOPA has proven to be a useful tool in combating gentrification in D.C.

    “The D.C. laws are where a lot of the inspiration for COPA came from,” Fregosi said. “It’s a good anti-displacement policy which we actually expanded on by making sure that the properties that are purchased through COPA are permanently removed from the speculative market and preserved as permanently affordable housing.”

    The idea is starting to catch on across the San Francisco Bay. Fregosi has been fielding interest from city representatives and activists in cities including Berkeley and Oakland.

    #Logement #Communs #San_Francisco

  • Exclusif : Amazon déploie des machines qui emballent les commandes et remplacent les travailleurs
    https://www.crashdebug.fr/high-teck/16018-exclusif-amazon-deploie-des-machines-qui-emballent-les-commandes-et

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc déploie des machines pour automatiser un travail détenu par des milliers de ses employés : la mise en boîte des commandes des clients.

    Jeffrey Dastin

    L’entreprise a commencé à ajouter de la technologie à une poignée d’entrepôts au cours des dernières années, qui scanne les marchandises qui descendent sur un tapis roulant et les enveloppe quelques secondes plus tard dans des boîtes fabriquées sur mesure pour chaque article, ont dit à Reuters deux personnes qui ont travaillé sur le projet.

    Amazon a envisagé d’installer deux machines dans des dizaines d’autres entrepôts, en supprimant au moins 24 postes dans chacun d’entre eux, selon ces personnes. Ces installations emploient généralement plus de 2 000 personnes.

    Cela représenterait plus de 1 (...)

  • Etats-Unis : une institutrice, malade, contrainte de payer son remplaçant (Le Monde)
    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/05/10/etats-unis-une-institutrice-malade-contrainte-de-payer-son-remplacant_546029

    L’enseignante, atteinte d’un cancer, se voit retirer près de 180 euros par jour sur son salaire pour payer son remplaçant en vertu de la loi californienne.
    […]

    En vertu de l’accord conclu entre le district et les organisations syndicales à San Francisco, chaque enseignant a droit à dix jours de congés maladie payés par an. Les jours non pris peuvent se cumuler d’année en année.
    Une fois épuisés ces jours, les enseignants malades peuvent encore bénéficier de cent jours de congés prolongés, durant lesquels ils reçoivent « l’intégralité de leur salaire moins le coût de leur remplaçant », explique la porte-parole.

    #éducation #enseignant·es #USA #salarié·es #conditions_de_travail #arrêt_maladie

  • États-Unis. Une institutrice malade, contrainte de payer son remplaçant
    https://www.ouest-france.fr/monde/etats-unis/etats-unis-une-institutrice-malade-contrainte-de-payer-son-remplacant-6

    Cette situation « n’est pas propre au district ou à San Francisco », a assuré une porte-parole du district scolaire, Laura Dudnick, expliquant que l’obligation de remboursement s’applique dans toutes les écoles de Californie, conformément au code de l’éducation en vigueur dans cet État depuis 1976.

    En vertu de l’accord conclu entre le district et les organisations syndicales à San Francisco, chaque enseignant a droit à dix jours de congés-maladie payés par an. Les jours non pris peuvent se cumuler d’année en année.

    Une fois épuisés ces jours, les enseignants malades peuvent encore bénéficier de 100 jours de congés prolongés, durant lesquels ils reçoivent « l’intégralité de leur salaire moins le coût de leur remplaçant », explique la porte-parole.

    #le_rêve_américain

  • Uber et Lyft contribuent largement aux embouteillages à San Francisco
    https://usbeketrica.com/article/uber-lyft-contribuent-aux-embouteillages-san-francisco

    Entre 2010 et 2016, les retards dus aux embouteillages à San Francisco ont augmenté de 62%. Les trajets effectués par les chauffeurs des plateformes Uber et Lyft seraient directement responsables de plus de la moitié de ces ralentissements supplémentaires, selon une étude publiée par la revue Science Advances. Une circulation plus fluide, avec des citadins qui ne dépendent plus de leur voiture personnelle pour les trajets quotidiens. Tel est le futur proche de la mobilité urbaine promis par les (...)

    #Lyft #Uber #urbanisme

  • Do transportation network companies decrease or increase congestion ?
    https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/5/eaau2670

    Transportation network companies (TNCs) have grown rapidly in recent years. In 2016, TNCs were 15% of all intra-San Francisco vehicle trips, which is 12 times the number of taxi trips (1), while in New York in 2016, TNC ridership equaled that of yellow cab and doubled annually between 2014 and 2016 (2). TNCs are on-demand ride services where rides are arranged through a mobile app to connect the passenger with a driver, often a private individual driving their personal vehicle (3). The (...)

    #Lyft #Uber #urbanisme

  • Uber and Lyft increased traffic delays in San Francisco by 40 percent
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2202011-uber-and-lyft-increased-traffic-delays-in-san-francisco-by-40-

    Uber and Lyft drivers are on strike to demand regulated fares and livable wages, in the lead-up to Uber’s initial public offering on the stock exchange on 10 May. Now there is some more bad news for these services : they haven’t lived up to claims of reducing traffic congestion. In San Francisco, rides through these two services increased traffic delays by 40 per cent over a six-year period, according to a new study. “We collected information on where and when exactly these trips occur and (...)

    #Lyft #Uber #urbanisme

  • Une institutrice américaine, atteinte d’un cancer, contrainte de payer son remplaçant AFP - 10 Mai 2019 - RTBF
    https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_une-institutrice-americaine-atteinte-d-un-cancer-contrainte-de-payer-son

    Des parents d’élèves d’une école de San Francisco ont organisé une collecte de fonds destinée à financer une institutrice malade du cancer, tenue par la loi de rembourser le salaire de son remplaçant : près de 200 dollars par jour (environ 180 euros) .


    Illustration - Une institutrice américaine, atteinte d’un cancer, contrainte de payer son remplaçant - © PHILIPPE DESMAZES - AFP

    Cette situation « n’est pas propre au district ou à San Francisco » , a assuré à l’AFP une porte-parole du district scolaire, Laura Dudnick, expliquant que l’obligation de remboursement s’applique dans toutes les écoles de Californie, conformément au code de l’éducation en vigueur dans cet Etat depuis 1976.

    En vertu de l’accord conclu entre le district et les organisations syndicales à San Francisco, chaque enseignant a droit à dix jours de congés-maladie payés par an. Les jours non pris peuvent se cumuler d’année en année.

    Une fois épuisés ces jours, les enseignants malades peuvent encore bénéficier de 100 jours de congés prolongés, durant lesquels ils reçoivent « l’intégralité de leur salaire moins le coût de leur remplaçant », explique la porte-parole.

    Enseignante en deuxième année de maternelle, l’institutrice, qui exerce dans l’école depuis 17 ans, souffre d’un cancer du sein et a demandé aux nombreux médias s’intéressant à son cas de protéger son anonymat.

    La collecte de fonds organisée sur internet par les parents de l’école élémentaire Glen Park a permis de lever près de 14.000 dollars et est désormais close.

    #californie #école #maladie #pauvreté #assurance_maladie #paradis californien

  • People do what they perceive to be possible. Research in San Francisco found that women, especially women of colour, felt that “people like me” do not cycle.

    Similarly, 49% of people in London say they do not feel cycling is for “people like them”. More diverse and inclusive imagery of cyclists (in policy documents, in the media and on city streets) could help challenge these perceptions and make more people feel that cycling is for everyone.

    More evidence we need more creative commons stock images representing diverse people doing things like biking

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2019/mar/08/how-to-get-more-women-cycling-in-cities

    #biking #women #cyclofeminisme

  • A software malfunction is injuring Lime riders around the world — Quartz
    https://qz.com/1558033/a-software-malfunction-is-injuring-lime-riders-around-the-world

    So sieht’s dann aus: E-Rollerfahrer werden softwaregesteuert vom störrischen Gerät abgeworfen. Kommt die Roller-Reithelmpflicht?

    Something is off with Lime scooters.

    Riders in Switzerland and New Zealand have reported the front wheels of their electric scooters locking suddenly mid-ride, hurling riders to the ground. The malfunction has resulted in dozens of injuries ranging from bruises to broken jaws.

    Lime pulled all its scooters from Swiss streets in January when reports of the incidents surfaced there. When the city of Auckland, New Zealand voted to suspend the company earlier this week following 155 reported cases of sudden braking, the company acknowledged that a software glitch was causing the chaos.

    “Recently we detected a bug in the firmware of our scooter fleet that under rare circumstances could cause sudden excessive braking during use,” Lime wrote in a blog post Saturday. “[I]n very rare cases—usually riding downhill at top speed while hitting a pothole or other obstacle—excessive brake force on the front wheel can occur, resulting in a scooter stopping unexpectedly.”

    The company claims that fewer than 0.0045% of all rides worldwide have been affected, adding that “any injury is one too many.” An initial fix reduced the number of incidents, it said, and a final update underway on all scooters will soon be complete.

    It’s unclear just how many of the other 17 countries where Lime has deployed scooters have been affected by the problem. A Texas man sued the company this week after a similar-sounding incident threw him from a Lime scooter.

    Lime was valued at $2 billion earlier this year, just two years after its launch. It’s not the only company in the crowded electric scooter rental market to field such reports. While most scooter-related injuries stem from traffic accidents or improper use by riders, there have also been reports of malfunctioning machines causing injuries, like the Skip scooter that flung Quartz reporter Mike Murphy onto the pavement in San Francisco late last year.