person:bill de blasio

  • Taxi loan abuses part of a broader pattern in New York | American Banker
    https://www.americanbanker.com/opinion/taxi-loan-abuses-part-of-a-broader-pattern-in-new-york

    An investigation by The New York Times earlier this week suggested that the massive collapse in New York City taxi medallion prices since 2014 was not primarily the result of new competition from Uber and Lyft. Instead it was the inevitable outcome of unsustainable lending practices.

    Low-paid cab drivers who dreamed of becoming their own bosses took out loans that required them to pay $1 million or more. The payments often covered only the interest that borrowers owed, and interest rates spiked if the loans were not repaid within a few years. From the lenders’ standpoint, the loans only made sense as long as medallion prices continued to rise.

    Cabbies, many of them immigrants, suffered harsh consequences after taking out loans with terms they did not fully understand.

    Cab drivers who dreamed of becoming their own bosses took out loans that required them to pay $1 million or more.

    Since the articles were published, various politicians have floated potential responses that are narrowly targeted at taxi medallion lending.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a probe of taxi loan brokers. Other local officials suggested that the city should buy onerous loans at discounted prices and then forgive much of the debt.

    Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked the National Credit Union Administration to conduct a review of supervisory practices at institutions that engage in taxi medallion lending.

    But taxi drivers are not the only businesspeople who regularly get deceived by unscrupulous lenders. So do contractors, restaurateurs and the owners of various other kinds of struggling small businesses. Many high-cost business lenders are based in New York, where unusually favorable laws provide a haven to these companies.

    Some aspects of the New York City taxi loan market were unique. For example, local officials had a vested interest in keep medallion prices high, since the city was generating revenue from the proceeds of sales. Indeed, the Times showed that government officials enabled lending that has put many borrowers in dire straits.

    “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, said in a 2011 interview.

    But in other ways, the loans to cab drivers resembled deceptively marketed loans that have ensnared a wide variety of cash-strapped small-business owners.

    Because the New York City taxi loans were classified as business loans, rather than consumer loans, they did not have to include standard disclosures regarding interest rates. They often included large fees and terms that unsophisticated borrowers did not understand.

    And according to the Times, some taxi medallion lenders used a tool that under New York law offers a uniquely powerful way to collect on business debt. Lenders in the Empire State can require applicants for small-business loans to sign a document called a confession of judgment, which prevents them from contesting any subsequent allegation that they have fallen behind on their payments.

    A Bloomberg News investigation last year found that merchant cash advance companies, which offer high-cost financing to small businesses across the country, have at times abused New York’s court system by forging documents and lying about how much money they are owed in order to obtain speedy judgments that cannot be contested by the borrower.

    Small businesses that use merchant cash advances are required to make daily payments based on a percentage of their daily revenue. The merchant cash advance firms avoid complying with New York’s strict usury rules by classifying their financing not as a loan, but rather as a purchase of the company’s future credit card receipts.

    The Bloomberg articles also chronicled the role of New York City marshals — mayoral appointees who enforce the court judgments, get a cut of the proceeds, and have been accused in some cases of improperly seeking to collect money outside of the city.

    As evidence of business lending abuses in New York has mounted, little change has occurred at the state level, though there does appear to be a growing appetite for reform.

    Last year, the New York State Department of Financial Services argued in a report that borrower protection laws and regulations should apply equally to all consumer lending and small-business lending activities.

    The Bloomberg investigation reportedly sparked probes by the New York attorney general’s office and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the Federal Trade Commission has also opened an investigation of potentially unfair or deceptive practices in the merchant cash advance industry.

    The loan practices that hurt taxi drivers are part of a broader pattern in New York, which has become the nation’s capital for predatory business lending. It remains to be seen whether state lawmakers and regulators will connect the dots.

    Bankshot is American Banker’s column for real-time analysis of today’s news.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • How New York could respond to the taxi medallion lending crisis | CSNY
    https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/infrastructure/how-new-york-could-respond-to-taxi-medallion-lending-crisis.html

    Experts and lawmakers weigh in on easing the pain of burdened medallion owners and preventing predatory lending in the future.
    By ANNIE MCDONOUGH
    MAY 22, 2019

    After a two-part New York Times investigation into predatory lending practices for taxi medallions delineated how industry leaders and government agencies participated in, encouraged or ignored risky lending, calls for action sprang forth – sometimes from the very same officials or agencies that had been asleep at the switch.

    Various deceptive or exploitative lending practices contributed to the rise and precipitous fall of taxi medallions in New York City. Medallions worth $200,000 in 2002 rose to more than $1 million in 2014, before crashing to less than $200,000. The bubble was inflated by loans made without down payments, requirements that loans had to be paid back in three years or extended with inflated interest rates, and interest-only loans that required borrowers to forfeit legal rights and give up much of their income. Borrowers – typically low-income, immigrant drivers – were left in the lurch when the bubble burst, an event that the taxi industry has long blamed primarily on the rise of app-based ride hail services like Uber and Lyft. While the rise of app-based ride hail did contribute to the now-ailing taxi industry, the revelations in the Times show government officials – including the Taxi and Limousine Commission which acted as a “cheerleader” for medallion sales – ignored the warning signs.

    Since Sunday, when the first Times story was published, New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced an inquiry into the business and lending practices that “may have created” the crisis, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a joint probe by the TLC, Department of Finance and Department of Consumer Affairs into the brokers who helped arrange the loans, Sen. Chuck Schumer called for an investigation into the credit unions involved in the lending, and members of the New York City Council and state Legislature, and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, have called for hearings and legislation to resolve the issue.

    The various proposals raised thus far are unlikely to fully address the damage caused to many medallion owners, some experts say. The Times investigation found that since 2016, more than 950 taxi drivers have filed for bankruptcy, with thousands more still suffering under the crippling loans. This is combined with a string of taxi and other professional drivers who have committed suicide in the past year and a half.

    Some of the solutions offered have focused on preventing the kind of reckless lending practices exhibited for taxi medallions. Stringer called on state lawmakers to close a loophole that allows lenders to classify their loans as business deals – as opposed to consumer loans, which have more protections for borrowers. A bill introduced last week by state Sen. Jessica Ramos would also establish a program to assist medallion owners who are unable to obtain financing, refinancing or restructuring of an existing loan through a loan loss reserve. State Sen. James Sanders and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who chair the state Legislature’s committees on banks, declined to comment.

    But classifying loans for medallions as consumer loans might not be appropriate, said Bruce Schaller, a transportation expert and former deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation. “I think the difficult question with the individual drivers is that they are in business, they are planning to make money off of their increase in medallion prices. Should they have the same protections as someone who is taking out a mortgage on a house, who is presumed to be very vulnerable?” he asked. “That may well be the case, but (drivers) are also in a business in a way that the prospective homeowner isn’t.”

    The TLC told the Times that it is the responsibility of bank examiners to control lending practices, while the state Department of Financial Services said that it supervised some of the banks involved, but often deferred to federal inspectors. “The TLC is gravely concerned that unsound lending practices have hurt taxi drivers and has raised these concerns publicly,” Acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen said in an emailed statement. “Banks and credit unions are regulated by federal agencies that have substantial oversight powers that the TLC does not have. The TLC has taken steps within our regulatory power to help owners and drivers by easing regulatory burdens and working with City Council to limit the number of for-hire vehicles on the road. We have pushed banks to restructure loan balances and payment amounts to reflect actual trip revenue.”

    Seth Stein, a spokesman for de Blasio, also mentioned interest in preventing risky lending practices. “We are deeply concerned about predatory lending in the medallion business,” Stein wrote in an email. “While TLC has no direct regulatory oversight over lenders – that is squarely under the purview of federal regulators – we continue to look for every means of helping owners and drivers make ends meet. We’ve discontinued medallion sales, secured a cap on app-based for-hire-vehicles, and we strongly urge federal regulators to do more as well.”

    But remedies at the federal level may not be realistic, according to David King, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University, with a speciality in transportation and land use planning. “There doesn’t seem to be any appetite for what would be reasonable lending standards. Reasonable standards that would include verifiable collateral or values that were based on something other than made-up dollar amounts,” King said, adding that he doesn’t see those changes being made under the current administration. “The housing bubble of 11 years ago, I think that was a sufficiently national concern that has inspired some movement from Washington. Whereas I think something like an asset bubble in New York, just like an asset bubble in one region, isn’t going to be enough to spur federal legislation.”

    Schaller said that while lending regulation fixes could be beneficial for preventing this kind of crisis in other industries, there’s action that can be taken now by the city to alleviate some pain. “The real question is, if the city now decides that they were part of the fraud, then they should refund the money,” he said. “It’s one thing to close a loophole, it’s another thing to decide that you need to make restitution.”

    City Councilman Mark Levine, who has been working on legislation along those lines for nearly a year, agreed that the city needs to take responsibility. “There has been a lot of attention to the whole industry of lenders and brokers who push these loans on the drivers in ways that were not transparent and really deceived them, and may very well constitute some sort of legal fraud,” he said. “But the city itself also bears responsibility for this, because we were selling medallions with the goal of bringing in revenue to the city and we were promoting them and pumping them up in ways that I think masks the true risks that drivers were taking on. And, most egregiously, we had a round of sales in 2014 when it was abundantly clear that we were headed for a price drop, because by that point app-based competitors had emerged and there were other challenges.”

    Levine’s vision for immediately helping those drivers still suffering under unsustainable loans would involve the city acquiring the loans from lenders who either cannot or will not be flexible with borrowers, and then forgiving the debts. Though the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, the idea is to partially finance the buy-back by placing a surcharge on app-based ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft. Levine’s office is still working on confirming that the City Council would have the authority to levy that kind of surcharge. If it doesn’t, they would encourage that action be taken in Albany.

    But, as the Times’ investigation into the issue has revealed, much of the damage to drivers and medallion owners has already been done – including to the hundreds of medallion owners who have declared bankruptcy. “If someone paid $800,000 for a medallion loan and paid part of that off, and has had their house repossessed, now Mark Levine is saying, ‘well, we’ll just refund whatever’s left dangling out there,’” Schaller said. “If I were on the losing end of that bargain, I’d say I want my $800,000 back.”

    The idea of a buy-back, Levine admitted, is not a perfect solution, but it’s one he said can help the thousands of medallion owners stuck right now. “It would not address that kind of horrible, horrible hardship,” he said, referring to those owners who have forfeited assets and sustained other losses.

    If there’s any upside to the stories relayed in the Times about medallion owners financially devastated by bad loans and the failing taxi industry, it may be that it’s a call to action – even if it’s coming too late for some. “It’s had a dramatic impact on the interest in the Council about finding solutions,” Levine said of the heavy punch packed by the Times’ investigation. “It gives new impetus to this effort, which is good, because it’s complicated, and it’s going to require a political push to make it happen. The revelations in this article made that more likely.”

    Annie McDonough is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • De Blasio calls for probe of taxi lenders
    https://nypost.com/2019/05/20/de-blasio-calls-for-probe-of-taxi-lenders-following-predatory-loan-report

    May 20, 2019 - Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a probe Monday of the city taxi market following a damning report that claimed industry leaders duped drivers with predatory loans and artificially inflated the costs of cab medallions for years– leading to their eventual collapse.

    “Today I ordered a joint investigation by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Department of Finance and Department of Consumer Affairs into predatory practices by brokers in the taxi industry,” the mayor said in a statement.

    The 45-day review will identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled city authorities, the mayor said.

    The New York Times reported Sunday that brokers shopped exploitative loans to cash-strapped, often immigrant drivers who were crushed by hefty monthly fees.

    De Blasio said the review will set new rules to prevent future abuses.

    “It’s unacceptable to prey on hardworking New Yorkers trying to support their families and we’ll do all that we can to put an end to it,” he said.

    The deep decrease in medallion values from a high of $1.3 million in 2013 to just $250,000 last year is also due to the flood of Uber and Lyft cars into the market.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Inquiries Into Reckless Loans to Taxi Drivers Ordered by State Attorney General and Mayor - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/20/nyregion/nyc-taxi-medallion-loans-attorney-general.html

    May 20, 2019 - The investigations come after The New York Times found that thousands of drivers were crushed under debt they could not repay.

    The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a separate investigation into the brokers who helped arrange the loans.

    The efforts marked the government’s first steps toward addressing a crisis that has engulfed the city’s yellow cab industry. They came a day after The New York Times published a two-part investigation revealing that a handful of taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of a medallion — the coveted permit that allows a driver to own and operate a cab — and made hundreds of millions of dollars by issuing reckless loans to low-income buyers.

    The investigation also found that regulators at every level of government ignored warning signs, and the city fed the frenzy by selling medallions and promoting them in ads as being “better than the stock market.”

    The price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million before crashing in late 2014, which left borrowers with debt they had little hope of repaying. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, and thousands more are struggling to stay afloat.

    The findings also drew a quick response from other elected officials. The chairman of the Assembly’s banking committee, Kenneth Zebrowski, a Democrat, said his committee would hold a hearing on the issue; the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said he was drafting legislation; and several other officials in New York and Albany called for the government to pressure lenders to soften loan terms.

    The biggest threat to the industry leaders appeared to be the inquiry by the attorney general, Letitia James, which will aim to determine if the lenders engaged in any illegal activity.

    “Our office is beginning an inquiry into the disturbing reports regarding the lending and business practices that may have created the taxi medallion crisis,” an office spokeswoman said in a statement. “These allegations are serious and must be thoroughly scrutinized.”

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said through a spokesman that he supported the inquiry. “If any of these businesses or lenders did something wrong, they deserve to be held fully accountable,” the spokesman said in a statement.

    Lenders did not respond to requests for comment. Previously, they denied wrongdoing, saying regulators had approved all of their practices and some borrowers had made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. Lenders blamed the crisis on the city for allowing ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to enter without regulation, which they said led medallion values to plummet.

    Mr. de Blasio said the city’s investigation will focus on the brokers who arranged the loans for drivers and sometimes lent money themselves.

    “The 45-day review will identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled city authorities,” the mayor said in a statement. “The review will set down strict new rules that prevent broker practices that hurt hard-working drivers.”

    Four of the city’s biggest taxi brokers did not respond to requests for comment.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, said the city should not get to investigate the business practices because it was complicit in many of them.

    The government has already closed or merged all of the nonprofit credit unions that were involved in the industry, saying they participated in “unsafe and unsound banking practices.” At least one credit union leader, Alan Kaufman, the former chief executive of Melrose Credit Union, a major medallion lender, is facing civil charges.

    The other lenders in the industry include Medallion Financial, a specialty finance company; some major banks, including Capital One and Signature Bank; and several loosely regulated taxi fleet owners and brokers who entered the lending business.

    At City Hall, officials said Monday they were focused on how to help the roughly 4,000 drivers who bought medallions during the bubble, as well as thousands of longtime owners who were encouraged to refinance their loans to take out more money during that period.

    One city councilman, Mark Levine, said he was drafting a bill that would allow the city to buy medallion loans from lenders and then forgive much of the debt owed by the borrowers. He said lenders likely would agree because they are eager to exit the business. But he added that his bill would force lenders to sell at discounted prices.

    “The city made hundreds of millions by pumping up sales of wildly overpriced medallions — as late as 2014 when it was clear that these assets were poised to decline,” said Mr. Levine, a Democrat. “We have an obligation now to find some way to offer relief to the driver-owners whose lives have been ruined.”

    Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, proposed a similar solution in a letter to the mayor. He said the city should convene the lenders and pressure them to partially forgive loans.

    “These lenders too often dealt in bad faith with a group of hard-working, unsuspecting workers who deserved much better and have yet to receive any measure of justice,” wrote Mr. Stringer, who added that the state should close a loophole that allowed the lenders to classify their loans as business deals, which have looser regulations.

    Last November, amid a spate of suicides by taxi drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming debt, the Council created a task force to study the taxi industry.

    On Monday, a spokesman for the speaker, Mr. Johnson, said that members of the task force would be appointed very soon. He also criticized the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that sold the medallions.

    “We will explore every tool we have to ensure that moving forward, the T.L.C. protects medallion owners and drivers from predatory actors including lenders, medallion brokers, and fleet managers,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement.

    Another councilman, Ritchie Torres, who heads the Council’s oversight committee, disclosed Monday for the first time that he had been trying to launch his own probe since last year, but had been stymied by the taxi commission. “The T.L.C. hasn’t just been asleep at the wheel, they have been actively stonewalling,” he said.

    A T.L.C. spokesman declined to comment.

    In Albany, several lawmakers also said they were researching potential bills.

    One of them, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan, a member of the committee on banks, said she hoped to pass legislation before the end of the year. She said the state agencies involved in the crisis, including the Department of Financial Services, should be examined.

    “My world has been shaken right now, to be honest,” Ms. Niou said.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/taxi-medallions.html

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper. 

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • ‘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

  • Women paint their clothes with red in protest against the J. Marion Sims statue in New York, known as the “father of modern gynaecology” the protestors highlighted the doctor performed painful surgeries on enslaved black women without consent or anaesthesia


    https://twitter.com/womensart1/status/1121671458327896065

    La statue a été déplacée en 2018

    New York City’s Public Design Commission voted unanimously on Monday to remove the statue of J. Marion Sims, a 19th century surgeon who conducted experimental operations on female slaves, from its place of honor in Central Park.

    It was the first decision to alter a prominent New York monument since Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a review of “symbols of hate” from city property eight months ago, in the wake of the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va., that left one person dead.

    A commission that Mr. de Blasio created to make recommendations about how to evaluate the city’s monuments and other public images had proposed that the Sims statue be removed.

    The Parks Department will remove the statue, at 103rd Street, near the northeast corner of Central Park, at 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to Natalie Grybauskas, a mayoral spokeswoman.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/16/nyregion/nyc-sims-statue-central-park-monument.html

    Déplacée pour la seconde fois mais toujours debout

    A bronze statue by Ferdinand Freiherr von Miller (the younger), depicting Sims in surgical wear,[42] was erected in Bryant Park, New York, in 1894, taken down in the 1920s amid subway construction, and moved to the northeastern corner of Central Park, at 103rd Street, in 1934, opposite the New York Academy of Medicine.[23][43] The address delivered at its rededication was published in the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine.[44] This is the first statue erected in the United States in honor of any physician. The statue became the center of protests in 2017 due to Sims’ operations on enslaved black women.[45] Vandals defaced the statue with the word RACIST and painted the eyes red.[46] In April 2018, the New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to have the statue removed from Central Park and installed in Green-Wood Cemetery, near where Sims is buried.[43]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Marion_Sims

    #grand_homme #chirurgie #racisme #gynécologie #femmes
    #James_Marion_Sims

  • NYC passes minimum pay wage for Uber and Lyft drivers
    https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/04/nyc-minimum-pay-wage-uber-lyft-drivers

    12.04.18 - New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission voted today to establish a minimum wage for drivers working for companies like Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via. The city is the first in the US to set a minimum pay rate for app-based drivers. Going forward, the minimum pay will be set at $17.22 per hour after expenses, bringing it in line with the city’s $15 per hour minimum wage for typical employees, which will take effect at the end of the year. The additional $2.22 takes into account contract drivers’ payroll taxes and paid time off.

    “Today we brought desperately needed relief to 80,000 working families. All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers’ rights in America,” Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, said in a statement. “We are thankful to the Mayor, Commissioner Joshi and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, City Council Member Brad Lander and all of the city officials who listened to and stood up for drivers.”

    Earlier this year, the Taxi and Limousine Commission released the results of a study it requested, which recommended the new pay floor. And in August, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill requiring the commission to set a base pay rate. The Independent Drivers Guild, which has been working towards a minimum pay rate for some time, estimates that contract drivers in the city are currently earning just $11.90 per hour after expenses.

    Across the US, there’s been increased scrutiny on what companies like Uber and Lyft are actually paying their workers. In May, San Francisco subpoenaed the two companies for their pay records, and both companies have faced lawsuits over driver wages. Last year, NYC began requiring all ride-hailing services to offer an in-app tipping option.

    The rules passed today aren’t sitting well with the companies affected by them, however. Lyft told Engadget that it’s concerned that calculating pay per ride rather than per week will incentivize short rides over long rides. Further, Lyft says the new out of town rates — which require companies to pay drivers more when they take passengers outside of the city and return without a passenger — will be hard to implement before the new regulations take effect in 30 days.

    “Lyft believes all drivers should earn a livable wage and we are committed to helping drivers reach their goals,” the company told Engadget. “Unfortunately, the TLC’s proposed pay rules will undermine competition by allowing certain companies to pay drivers lower wages, and disincentive drivers from giving rides to and from areas outside Manhattan. These rules would be a step backward for New Yorkers, and we urge the TLC to reconsider them.”

    Uber released a statement as well ahead of today’s vote. The company’s director of public affairs, Jason Post, said:

    “Uber supports efforts to ensure that full-time drivers in NYC - whether driving with taxi, limo or Uber - are able to make a living wage, without harming outer borough riders who have been ignored by yellow taxi and underserved by mass transit.

    The TLC’s implementation of the City Council’s legislation to increase driver earnings will lead to higher than necessary fare increases for riders while missing an opportunity to immediately reduce congestion in Manhattan’s central business district.

    The TLC’s rules does not take into account incentives or bonuses forcing companies to raise rates even higher. Companies use incentives and bonuses as part of driver earnings to ensure reliability citywide by providing a monetary incentive to drivers to complete trips in areas that need them the most (such as outside of Manhattan).

    In addition, the rules miss an opportunity to immediately deal with congestion in Manhattan’s central business district. A recent TLC study authored by economists James Parrott and Michael Reich describes a formula that would financially punish companies who have low utilization rates. Instead, the TLC is choosing the adopt an industry-wide utilization rate that does not hold bases accountable for keeping cars full with paying passengers.”

    #USA #New_York #Uber #Mindestlohn

  • Opinion | New York’s Amazon Deal Is a Bad Bargain - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/opinion/new-yorks-amazon-deal.html

    The city has what the company wants, talent. Why pay them $1.5 billion to come?

    Amazon wants to develop a four-million-square-foot campus by the East River because of the talent that resides in New York. Lots of it. According to the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, New York has more than 320,000 tech workers in the labor pool, the most in the nation. (Washington is second.) That talent commands high salaries, great benefits and won’t move to Pittsburgh or Austin or any other of the perfectly nice cities that tried to woo the online giant.

    Which raises the question: If New York has what Amazon wants, why is it paying the company so much to make the move? Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who offered to replace his given name with the company’s to land the deal, are doing a victory dance.

    But the plan calls for the state to dispense $1.525 billion to the company, including $1.2 billion from its Excelsior program, which will reimburse Amazon $48,000 for every job. Another state agency, Empire State Development, will offer $325 million to the Amazonians tied to real estate projects. As for the city, Amazon can apply for tax credits that could be worth north of $1 billion from programs known as ICAP and REAP that reward companies for job creation generally, and outside Manhattan specifically. (And the campus is in a federal redevelopment area that qualifies for corporate tax breaks, letting the company’s major stockholder, the world’s richest man, keep more of his wealth.)

    Oh, and Amazon wants a helipad for its chief executive, Jeff Bezos. No problem.

    The prospect of handing Long Island City over to a company recently valued at $1 trillion seems distorted to some Queens politicians. They sense gentrification by fiat — another neighborhood sacrificed to the tech elite.

    “I welcome the jobs if it means Amazon investment in L.I.C. infrastructure, without us having to pay a ransom for them to be here,” said the neighborhood’s state senator, Michael Gianaris.

    That is, rather than the state and the city paying off Amazon, Amazon should be required to invest in the subways, schools and affordable housing. It could also be required to include job guarantees for lower-income residents of Long Island City, not just flimsy promises of job training.

    #Amazon #New_York #Strategie_economique

  • Are New York’s Free LinkNYC Internet Kiosks Tracking Your Movements ?
    https://theintercept.com/2018/09/08/linknyc-free-wifi-kiosks

    LinkNYC kiosks have become a familiar eyesore to New Yorkers. Over 1,600 of these towering, nine-and-a-half-foot monoliths — their double-sided screens festooned with ads and fun facts — have been installed across the city since early 2016. Mayor Bill de Blasio has celebrated their ability to provide “the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world” as “a critical step toward a more equal, open, and connected city for every New Yorker, in every borough.” Anyone can use the kiosks’ (...)

    #WiFi #géolocalisation #ACLU #EFF #LinkNYC #rethinklink.nyc

  • «Il-n’y-aura-pas-de-programme-spécial»... par Daniel Schneidermann | Arrêt sur images
    https://www.arretsurimages.net/chroniques/le-matinaute/il-ny-aura-pas-de-programme-special
    https://api.arretsurimages.net/api/public/media/msbnc-enfants-new-york/action/show

    "IL-N’Y-AURA-PAS-DE-PROGRAMME-SPÉCIAL"...
    pour réunir les familles séparées.

    Cette histoire d’enfants confisqués à leurs parents, à la frontière mexicaine des Etats-Unis. Je vous en parlais hier. Et au début de la semaine. Et ce n’est apparemment pas fini. Donald Trump, apprend-on ce matin, vient d’apposer sa signature au feutre épais en bas d’un texte qui, parait-il, stipule que les enfants ne seront plus séparés de leurs parents, mais incarcérés avec eux (comme en France), pour une durée indéterminée. Soupir de soulagement général. « Des gens vont être heureux aujourd’hui », a déclaré Trump, en montrant aux caméras sa signature au feutre épais.

    Tout finit donc par s’arranger, se dit-on machinalement. La monstrueuse parenthèse est refermée. Mauvais rêve. Allégresse générale. Quant aux quelque 2000 enfants confisqués avant la signature, ils ne vont pas tarder à retrouver leurs parents. Admis ou refoulés des Etats-Unis, les familles se retrouveront. Tout finira le moins mal possible. Voilà ce que se dit, tout seul, le cerveau.

    Sauf que non. Ce matin par exemple on lit, noir sur blanc (en moins gros titres, néanmoins, que la nouvelle de la signature de Trump), qu’il « n’y aura pas de programme spécial pour réunir les familles séparées ». Je demande votre attention. Relisez cette phrase : il-n’y-aura-pas-de-programme-spécial-pour réunir-les-familles-séparées. Vous la voulez encore une fois ? Il-n’y-aura-pas-de-programme-spécial-pour-réunir-les-familles-séparées.

    De ce que l’on comprend, lors de la séparation des familles, quand elles sont interceptées à la frontière, parents et enfants sont pris en charge par deux administrations américaines distinctes, qui ne communiquent pas entre elles. Dans le meilleur des cas, les parents se voient remettre un formulaire, avec le mail et le numéro de téléphone d’une administration à contacter. Dans un de ces cas au moins, le numéro de téléphone était erroné. Ensuite, les parents sont internés quelque part. Ou expulsés. Avec leur formulaire, s’ils ne l’ont pas perdu.

    Les policiers qui, devant les tribunaux américains, viennent résumer le dossier des illégaux poursuivis, ne savent pas si ces personnes ont été arrêtées avec leurs enfants. Cette information ne figure pas au dossier judiciaire des poursuivis. C’est un avocat d’El Paso (Texas), Erik Hanshew, qui le raconte, dans un témoignage au Washington Post, que je vous recommande de lire jusqu’au bout. Il arrive que les procureurs s’opposent à ce que la question soit posée, à l’audience, aux policiers. « Si l’on vous prend votre portefeuille, en prison, on vous donne un reçu. Là, on vous prend vos enfants, et on ne vous donne pas une feuille de papier ? » a demandé un juge, stupéfait.

    Le cabinet d’Erik Hanshew, à El Paso, a mis en place une cellule spéciale, chargée de contacter les administrations susceptibles de donner des nouvelles des enfants. On peut imaginer la tâche, de chercher sur tout le territoire des Etats-Unis une fillette de cinq ans, qui ne sait pas épeler son prénom, ni son nom. A qui aucune administration n’a seulement passé un bracelet ou un collier avec ces informations, comme en portent, dans les pays civilisés, les animaux de compagnie. Un bracelet. Ou un collier.

    Je dis « sur tout le territoire », parce qu’on apprend également ce matin que 239 (au moins) de ces enfants confisqués ont été retrouvés à New York, à quelques milliers de kilomètres d’El Paso. Le maire, Bill de Blasio, n’était pas au courant. La chaîne MSNBC a retrouvé et filmé une poignée de ces enfants, dans une rue de New York. Pour acheminer les enfants, un policier avait assuré au stewart d’une compagnie aérienne qu’il s’agissait d’une équipe de foot. Trois compagnies aériennes ont décidé de cesser d’embarquer des enfants de migrants. Je m’arrête là pour aujourd’hui ?

    Il n’y a rien à reprocher aux medias américains. Ils font magnifiquement le travail. Il n’y a rien à vous reprocher à vous, qui avez lu cette chronique jusqu’au bout. Tous ensemble, nous allons maintenant tenter d’intégrer ce que nous avons lu. Comme l’avait dit le juge Frankfurter à Jan Karski en 1943, « je ne vous crois pas. Je ne dis pas que vous mentez, mais mon cerveau se refuse à vous croire ». Il va falloir reformater nos cerveaux.

    • « Time magazine’s major mistake on the crying-girl cover »
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/06/22/time-magazines-major-screw-up-on-the-crying-girl-cover

      There are examples of children separated from parents who immigrated illegally playing out nationwide. And well-meaning people across the political spectrum have taken a stand and forced change.

      Unfortunately, they made their most iconic image something that wasn’t a family being separated — and ultimately undermines their cause.

      The photo of a nearly 2-year-old Honduran girl crying as her mother is being patted down quickly went viral. It has also been used for a Facebook fundraiser to raise more than $18 million to help reunite families who have been separated. And the whole thing culminated in its placement in a photo illustration on the cover of Time magazine. The image features the girl against a red background, with President Trump towering over her and the words “Welcome to America.”

      The implication was clear: This was a girl who, like 2,500 other children, was being separated from her mother. Time and many others made a decision to suggest that this was an example of Trump uprooting our American ideals.

      But that’s not what it was. As The Washington Post’s Samantha Schmidt and Kristine Phillips report, the girl’s father says the child and her mother were never separated. U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed it, as did the Honduran deputy foreign minister.

      The image is a sad one, but it is of a rather standard occurrence at the border: A mother and her daughter attempted to immigrate illegally and were apprehended. The mother, in fact, had tried this before and was deported in 2013. The photo says virtually nothing about Trump’s now-aborted policy. In fact, it’s an example of how not all young children were separated from their parents.

      « Du document dans le symbole (ou pourquoi la photo est devenue la reine des images) »
      http://imagesociale.fr/6275

      Face à la polémique, Time annonce qu’il maintient son choix de couverture, arguant de la valeur de symbole de la photo. Mais cette position ne rencontre guère de soutien, et le message de l’image est visiblement affaibli. Comme le font remarquer plusieurs internautes, s’en tenir à une lecture strictement allégorique revient à dire qu’on aurait pu utiliser n’importe quel cliché de gamine pleurant. Une photo de stock d’une petite fille en larmes aurait-elle eu le même impact que le reportage de John Moore ?

  • New York City sues ’Big Pharma’ for $500m for fueling opioid epidemic | US news | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/23/new-york-city-sues-big-pharma-for-500m-for-fueling-opioid-epidemic

    New York City on Tuesday sued the makers of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and fentanyl that have played a central role in the opioid crisis killing tens of thousands across the nation.

    The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, and his wife Chirlane McCray, who leads the city’s efforts on mental health and drug addiction, announced a $500m lawsuit “to hold manufacturers and distributors to account”, filed in New York state supreme court.

    “More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years. ‘Big Pharma’ helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions,” De Blasio said. A record 1,000-plus people died in New York from opioid-related overdoses in 2016, the mayor reported.

    New York City on Tuesday sued several companies, led by Purdue Pharma, the family-owned creator of OxyContin the original brand of slow-release, powerful prescription narcotics that ushered in the crisis 20 years ago with aggressive marketing campaigns and insufficient warnings about addiction and abuse.

    Additional defendants include Endo, which makes the painkiller Percocet; Cephalon, which makes the fentanyl lollipop-type lozenge Actiq; Janssen, which makes fentanyl patches; and other opioid makers, including Johnson & Johnson, Watson, Teva and Allergan.

    #Opioides #Procès

  • Douglas Schifter blamed politicians for ruining life | Daily Mail Online
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5359349/NYC-cab-driver-shot-railing-politicians.html

    Livery cab driver who shot himself dead in front of New York’s City Hall blamed politicians and ride-sharing services like Uber for ’financially ruining’ his life

    A livery driver shot himself dead in his car in front of New York’s City Hall on Monday morning after venting on Facebook about the transportation industry
    Douglas Schifter, 61, wrote a lengthy post about two hours before his death blaming ride-sharing services as well as politicians for financially ruining his life
    Schifter, a driver since the ’80s, also ranted about issues in the transportation industry in columns he wrote for the for-hire publication Black Car News
    Neil Weiss, owner of Black Car News, said his friend had been struggling to pay his bills recently and had to move in with extended family in Pennsylvania

    By Minyvonne Burke For Dailymail.com and Associated Press

    Published: 18:47 GMT, 6 February 2018 | Updated: 00:06 GMT, 7 February 2018

    A livery cab driver in New York vented on Facebook that politicians and ride-sharing services like Uber had ’financially ruined’ his life hours before he shot himself dead on Monday in front of New York’s City Hall.

    Douglas Schifter drove up to the east gate of City Hall around 7.10am and shot himself in the head while sitting in his car, the New York Police Department said. The 61-year-old driver was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was injured.

    Around 5:30am, less than two hours before his suicide, Schifter posted an ominous message on Facebook blaming Uber as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg for destroying his livelihood.

    ’I have been financially ruined because three politicians destroyed my industry and livelihood and Corporate NY stole my services at rates far below fair levels,’ Schifter wrote in a lengthy post.
    Douglas Schifter, a livery can driver in New York, killed himself on Monday morning
    +4

    Douglas Schifter, a livery can driver in New York, killed himself on Monday morning
    Police said Schifter drove to the east gate of New York’s City Hall and shot himself in the head

    Police said Schifter drove to the east gate of New York’s City Hall and shot himself in the head
    About two hours before his death, Schifter vented on Facebook that ride-sharing services like Uber as well as politicians had ’financially ruined’ his life
    +4

    About two hours before his death, Schifter vented on Facebook that ride-sharing services like Uber as well as politicians had ’financially ruined’ his life

    ’I worked 100-120 consecutive hours almost every week for the past fourteen years. When the industry started in 1981, I averaged 40-50 hours. I cannot survive any longer with working 120 hours! I am not a Slave and I refuse to be one.’

    Schifter accused companies of not paying their drivers ’fair rates’ which in turn caused drivers desperate to make ends meet to ’squeeze rates to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of the business’.

    ’They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead,’ he fumed.

    Later in the post, Schifter slammed Uber as a company ’that is a known liar, cheat and thief’.

    Schifter expressed similar frustrations in columns he wrote for Black Car News, a publication for the for-hire vehicle industry.

    While venting about congestion pricing, Schifter wrote: ’The government is continuing its strong drive to enslave us with low wages and extreme fines. It’s a nightmare.’

    Neil Weiss, a friend of Schifter’s and the owner of Black Car News, said Schifter had been struggling to pay bills and moved in with extended family in Pennsylvania. He said his pal had texted him about 90 minutes before he killed himself that he was ’making it count’.

    ’I worked 100-120 consecutive hours almost every week for the past fourteen years. I am not a Slave and I refuse to be one’, the 61-year-old driver wrote on his Facebook page

    According to taxi and limousine records, Schifter had driver livery cabs, black cars and limousines since the early 1980s

    Weiss told the New York Post that he assumed Schifter’s cryptic message was in reference to the Facebook post his friend shared earlier on Monday.

    ’Obviously, that’s not what he meant,’ he said.

    ’He was a really sweet guy. His life had just gotten destroyed by the way the transportation industry had been going in New York City. There’s been some very significant adjustments in the past few years.’

    According to Weiss, Schifter complained for years that the change in their industry - which saw an increase in drivers and the introduction of ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber - was ’hurting a lot of people’.

    ’There’s been a lot of changes in the transportation industry in New York City over the past bunch of years and not for the better,’ Weiss said. ’I was hoping he was getting things together.’

    Taxi and limousine records show that Schifter had driven livery cabs, black cars and limousines since the early 1980s.

    #USA #travail #disruption #suicide #Uber #taxi

  • #Climat : #New_York assigne en justice cinq géants pétroliers
    https://www.romandie.com/news/Climat-New-York-assigne-en-justice-cinq-geants-petroliers/879503.rom

    Climat : New York assigne en justice cinq géants pétroliers

    New York - La ville de New York a assigné en justice cinq groupes pétroliers géants pour leur rôle présumé dans le changement climatique, et annoncé son intention de se débarrasser de quelque 5 milliards d’investissements dans des sociétés actives dans les #énergies_fossiles.

    Le maire démocrate, Bill de Blasio, a annoncé mercredi que la première ville américaine avait saisi la justice fédérale contre cinq géants pétroliers - BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil et Shell - pour leur responsabilité supposée dans le changement climatique.

    [...]

    Les dommages éventuellement alloués par la justice contribueraient au financement des mesures prises par la ville pour lutter contre les conséquences du changement climatique, a annoncé la municipalité, qui a déjà lancé un programme d’investissement de 20 milliards de dollars.

    « ExxonMobil accueille favorablement toute tentative de répondre au changement climatique », a réagi ExxonMobil à l’AFP. « Ce type d’action en justice, (...) contre une industrie qui propose des produits sur lesquels nous nous reposons tous pour faire fonctionner l’économie et vivre au quotidien, n’en est pas une. »

    Chevron a dénoncé une action « sans fondement factuel ou juridique », qui « ne fera rien pour répondre à la grave question du changement climatique », tandis que Shell soulignait que le réchauffement devait être traité « par des politiques gouvernementales raisonnables et le changement culturel », « pas par les tribunaux ».

  • New York City Moves to Require Uber to Provide a Tipping Option in Its App - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/nyregion/new-york-city-uber-tipping-app.html

    New Yorkers have been able to tip a taxi driver by adding a few dollars to their bill before swiping a credit card for years. But they cannot add a tip when they use the popular ride-hailing app Uber.

    Now officials are moving to require Uber to provide a tipping option in the app.

    The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission announced a proposal on Monday requiring car services that accept only credit cards to allow passengers to tip the driver using their card.

    “This rule proposal will be an important first step to improve earning potential in the for-hire vehicle industry, but it is just one piece of a more comprehensive effort to improve the economic well-being of drivers,” Meera Joshi, the city’s taxi commissioner, said in a statement.

    The decision was prompted by a petition from the Independent Drivers Guild, a group representing Uber drivers in New York. The petition, which collected more than 11,000 signatures, argued that drivers were losing thousands of dollars without an easy tipping option.

    Passengers can tip an Uber driver using cash, but there has long been confusion over whether it was expected. Uber’s website says tipping is voluntary and that riders are not obligated to offer a cash tip.

    The lack of a tipping option in Uber’s app has been a sore point for drivers. If new rules are approved in New York, it would be a major change in how Uber runs its business in its largest United States market. Other cities could demand to have the same choice.

    A spokeswoman for Uber, Alix Anfang, said the company would review the proposal.

    “Uber is always striving to offer the best earning opportunity for drivers and we are constantly working to improve the driver experience,” Ms. Anfang said in a statement, noting that the company had worked with the drivers guild to make sure drivers had a voice.

    Lyft, Uber’s largest competitor in the United States, has long offered in-app tipping as an option for riders. But Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, has been one of the largest impediments to adding tipping to the Uber app, according to two people familiar with his thinking who did not want to be identified publicly discussing the company’s internal discussions.

    Mr. Kalanick believes the feature — which has already been built, but has yet to be deployed — could add “friction” to the in-app experience, and could potentially make Uber less appealing. It could also bring a sense of guilt to those who do not tip drivers. Some inside the company have lobbied Mr. Kalanick to change his stance, but he has long resisted.

    New York’s proposal will be formally introduced by July and requires approval by the taxi commission’s board. Before that vote, drivers and passengers will have a chance to speak on the measure at a public hearing.

    In New York, about 16 million passengers used Uber and other ride-hailing services in October, soaring from about 5 million in June 2015, according to a recent study. But Uber has faced a series of scandals over its corporate culture, including allegations of sexual harassment, leading to a backlash among consumers.

    In March, Lyft said its drivers had earned more than $200 million in tips nationwide since the company started allowing tips in 2012. Adrian Durbin, a spokesman for Lyft, said its tipping policy was a major reason drivers prefer Lyft over Uber.

    New York Today
    Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more.

    “We’ve always known that offering in-app tipping is the right thing to do, which is why we’ve offered it since our earliest days,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement.

    James Conigliaro Jr., the founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, said that allowing drivers to earn tips would help them make a decent living after Uber had in recent years reduced driver rates in New York.

    “It has become harder for drivers to make a living wage,” he said. “They have to work much harder and longer hours to earn the same amount of money they did when Uber came on the scene.”

    Uber’s reaction to the proposal on Monday was muted compared to the company’s aggressive response when Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration tried to cap the number of Uber vehicles, suggesting the company might not fight the new rules. After Uber ran an advertising campaign in 2015 attacking the mayor over the cap, Mr. de Blasio ultimately dropped the idea.

    This month, Uber won a major victory in Albany when state lawmakers approved new rules allowing Uber and other ride-hailing apps to expand to upstate New York. Uber could begin operating in cities like Buffalo and Syracuse as soon as July.

    Some Uber users said the shift to tipping drivers in New York City was long overdue.

    “This is something Uber should have been doing from the beginning,” said Hebah Khan, 22, a junior at Barnard College.

    But Ms. Khan also wondered if the new tipping policy could turn away people who use Uber’s low-cost car-pooling feature. “They’re looking for a cheap luxury,” she said. “They’re probably not trying to tip.”

    Olivia Kenwell, a 25-year-old bartender at Broadway Dive on the Upper West Side, said she usually tips Uber’s drivers if she is the only one in the car during a car-pooling trip.

    “As a good-will gesture,” she said. “I might tip 5 dollars on my 2-dollar ride.”

    But she admitted she had an ulterior motive as well: a good rating as an Uber passenger.

    “I’m obsessed with my Uber rating,” she said. “It’s the only place in the world where you can find out exactly how well you’re liked.”

    Mike Isaac and Emily Palmer contributed reporting.

    A version of this article appears in print on April 18, 2017, on Page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: Taxi Officials Call on Uber To Provide Tipping in Its App.

    #Uber #USA

  • Une brèche dans les vitrines de la tolérance zéro | Mathieu Brier
    http://jefklak.org/?p=3644

    En novembre 2013, Bill de Blasio est élu maire de New York avec un programme axé sur la lutte contre l’arbitraire de la police. Une chose plutôt rare, en ces temps sécuritaires, et un comble, dans la capitale de la « tolérance zéro », politique ultra-répressive qui fait florès depuis les années 1980. C’est que, des coins de rues aux tribunaux, une riposte militante s’est organisée contre le « stop and frisk », ces arrestations et fouilles subies en permanence par les New-Yorkais des quartiers pauvres. Source : Z via Jef Klak

  • ’Menstrual equity’: Free tampons for New York City schools and jails - BBC News
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36597949

    Free tampons and pads are coming to New York City’s public schools, prisons and homeless shelters.

    The city will be the first in the US to introduce such a programme.
    Why are city authorities doing this, how will it work and how much will it cost?

    New York City council voted unanimously on Tuesday for a series of measures to provide menstrual hygiene products free of charge in public schools, prisons and homeless shelters.

    The bills are not yet law as Mayor Bill de Blasio needs to enact them, but he is a supporter, he says, “because tampons and pads aren’t luxuries - they’re necessities”.

    The measures were sponsored and promoted by city councillor Julissa Ferrares-Copeland, who says “periods have been stigmatised for too long”.

    She said she was happy to be known as the “period legislator”.

  • Primaires américaines : le scrutin de New York entaché de nombreuses irrégularités
    http://www.lemonde.fr/elections-americaines/article/2016/04/20/primaires-americaines-le-scrutin-de-new-york-entache-de-nombreuses-irregular

    Le principal problème a été constaté à Brooklyn, où 120 000 électeurs démocrates ont disparu des listes électorales entre novembre 2015 et avril 2016, sans raison apparente . Le maire de New York s’est lui-même étonné de l’écart : « Je reconnais que beaucoup de gens ont déménagé ou ont emménagé à Brooklyn. Cela pourrait expliquer en partie le problème. » Bill de Blasio s’est dit tout de même « troublé » par la différence constatée en moins de six mois et surtout « dans un sens négatif ».

    Dans certains bureaux de vote, les électeurs ont dû attendre plusieurs heures avant que le scrutin puisse débuter. Ainsi, à Fort Greene, dans le quartier de Brooklyn, lorsque les gens sont arrivés à l’ouverture du bureau, on leur a demandé de patienter trois heures parce que le personnel électoral n’avait pas les clés du local.

    Dans d’autres, le matériel d’enregistrement des votes était défectueux, tandis qu’ici et là le personnel d’encadrement était insuffisant. Dans le Queens, constatant que le matériel n’était pas opérationnel, on a proposé à des électeurs de mettre de côté leur bulletin , le temps qu’il puisse être traité plus tard. D’autres ont été orientés vers des bureaux de vote qui n’étaient pas le leur. Par ailleurs, il y a une enquête en cours sur l’erreur commise sur les bulletins de vote en espagnol, qui ont obligé les organisateurs à faire une réimpression dans l’urgence pour un coût de 200 000 dollars .

    Le bureau du procureur général de l’Etat a reçu au total dans la journée plus de 400 appels d’électeurs mécontents.

  • Une blague à connotation raciale embarrasse Hillary Clinton
    http://www.lapresse.ca/international/dossiers/maison-blanche-2016/201604/12/01-4970308-une-blague-a-connotation-raciale-embarrasse-hillary-clinton.php

    Sur scène avec Bill de Blasio et Leslie Odom, un acteur afro-américain de la comédie musicale Hamilton, Mme Clinton apostrophe Bill de Blasio : « Merci pour le soutien, Bill », déclare-t-elle. « Ça t’a pris du temps ».

    « Désolée Hillary. J’étais à l’heure CP » lui répond le maire, en référence à l’expression clichée « CP time » (CP pour colored people, personnes de couleur) selon laquelle les Noirs sont souvent en retard.

    « Je n’aime pas ce genre de blagues, Bill », répond immédiatement Leslie Odom. Mme Clinton trouve alors deux mots différents pour CP, « cautious politicians » (politiciens prudents).

    La plaisanterie n’a pas été du goût de tous [sic].

  • Humaniser la techno à New York - Doggerel
    http://alireailleurs.tumblr.com/post/142111763450

    Sur Doggerel, le magazine d’Arup, le bureau d’étude et de conseil en ingénierie, on trouve une rapide interview de Minerva Tantoco, la responsable technologique de la ville de New York, et de Jeff Merritt, le directeur de l’innovation de la New York, qui dépendent tout deux du bureau de la technologie et de l’innovation du maire. Ils expliquent notamment l’enjeu de leurs fonctions, qui consiste à la fois à utiliser les technologies pour apporter de nouveaux services au public mais également à fournir des services de nouvelles manières. A New York, l’enjeu n’est pas seulement de fournir un meilleur service, plus rapide et moins cher, il est aussi de fournir un service plus équitable. L’équité a été un levier stratégique lancé par le maire Bill de Blasio, dans le cadre de son plan de développement sur 10 (...)

    #Ville_intelligente #smart_city #politiques_publiques #territoires

  • New York embarrassée par ses milliers de sans-logis
    http://www.lecourrier.ch/135132/new_york_embarrassee_par_ses_milliers_de_sans_logis

    New York compte quelque 75’000 sans-abris, du jamais vu depuis les années 1930 selon certains experts. Cette situation constitue un embarras croissant pour son maire démocrate Bill de Blasio, accusé de l’avoir sous-estimé.

    #sans_abri #New_York #logement #Etats_Unis

  • New York City is sued over salt warnings on restaurant menus | Reuters
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-salt-lawsuit-idUSKBN0TN02820151204

    A restaurant industry trade group is suing New York City’s Board of Health to stop it from enforcing a new rule requiring many chain restaurants to post warnings on menu items that are high in sodium.

    The National Restaurant Association said on Thursday the Board of Health unfairly burdened restaurant owners and usurped the power of the popularly elected City Council by forcing restaurants with more than 15 locations nationwide to warn diners about salty foods.

    Backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the rule, believed the first of its kind nationally, requires restaurants to post a salt shaker encased in a black triangle as a warning symbol next to any menu item with more than 2,300 milligrams (0.08 ounce) of sodium, the daily limit many nutritionists recommend.

  • NYC’s Taxis Finally Launch an App to Compete With Uber
    http://www.wired.com/2015/08/arrow-ny-taxis-app

    New York is launching the Uber of taxis.

    Insiders of the city’s taxi industry are finally launching an app that lets users hail cabs and pay for rides using a smartphone. It’s such a great idea you have to wonder what took so long.

    The app is called Arro and, as first reported by Crain’s, it’s in beta testing with 7,000 New York City cabs and could launch within weeks. Here’s how it works: A user launches the app, which gives a nearby cabbie the passenger’s name, pickup address, and cross street. The user, meanwhile, gets the driver’s name and ID number. The app saves credit card info, letting passengers pay the metered fare and tip automatically. Another advantage is no surge pricing; the app developers told Crain’s that fares always will be meter-based.

    Once a sure bet, taxi medallions becoming unsellable
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/05/17/taxi-medallion-values-decline-uber-rideshare/27314735

    Until recently in America’s big cities, purchasing a taxi medallion—the city-issued license to operate cabs —was about as sound of an investment as they come.

    But with the rise of Uber and other ridesharing services, the value of taxi medallions are plummeting, leading cabbies and fleet owners throughout the USA worried that their industry will be decimated if local and state government doesn’t intervene.

    “I have had a pretty successful thing,” said Gary Karczewski, 65, a Chicago cabbie who inherited his medallion from his father 28 years ago and earned enough to purchase two homes and help send his two daughters to college by driving the equivalent of 80 times around the world. “My hope was to wind down soon and give whatever I could sell the medallion for to my mother. But I am not confident there’s a market now.”

    In Chicago, which has the country’s second biggest fleet with roughly 7,000 taxis, the median sale price for a medallion hovered around $70,000 in 2007 before reaching a median sales peak of $357,000 in late 2013.

    Since reaching that high point more than a year ago, the value of medallions in the Windy City have sharply declined and sales have ground to a near halt—with the city recording only seven medallion transfers in the first quarter of 2015—as the median sale price fell to about $270,000.

    The steady slide, which also is on display in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere, has left many owner-operators and big fleet managers pessimistic about their once prized assets.

    Cabbies around the country complain that drivers for services like Uber, which use a smartphone app to connect riders with freelancers using their own vehicles, are disrupting the market and playing with an unfair advantage.

    Medallion owners also grumble that rideshare services in many markets aren’t subject to the same rules of the road. Uber’s contract drivers don’t face as stringent vehicle inspections, their drivers aren’t required to obtain a chauffeurs license, and they can adjust their fares based on demand.
    Taxi medallion values are plummeting in big U.S. cities

    The changing landscape has been put into stark relief by the diminishing value of the taxi medallion in once plum markets like New York, where in recent years they proved to offer a better return on investment than gold, oil and real estate.

    As a result of the booming value, the vast majority of medallions in big metros like New York and Chicago were gobbled up over the last several decades by investors and companies that rent the medallions to drivers.

    But times are changing. The upstart Uber, which has a reported valuation of $50 billion, collected more than $750 million in just New York City during its first four years of business there. Investor Carl Icahn announced on Friday that he was making a $100 million investment in Uber rival Lyft, calling the company a “tremendous bargain.”

    “What I think has happened is that competition for consumers has not caused a drop in medallion prices, because medallion values in no way are tied to the riding public,” said Uber global policy director Corey Owens. “What’s happened is that drivers have found they have better opportunities.”

    Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates the city’s taxi industry, had sold newly-created medallions for wheel-chair accessible taxis for $80,000 each. The bargain price came after the authority put the medallions on the market last fall, with an initial asking price of $475,000, but received no bids.

    In New York, taxi mogul Evgeny Friedman is locked in a court battle with Citibank, to whom he owes some $31 million after some medallion loans matured.

    Citibank is looking to seize 87 of Freidman’s 900 medallions in New York, which has seen medallion prices drop to about $870,000 last fall from a peak of about $1.2 million last spring. Freidman, the biggest medallion owner in the USA, also owns fleets in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.

    In an April letter to creditors, New York taxi commission officials and other stakeholders, Freidman’s attorney, Brett Berman, called on industry regulators and medallion lenders to restructure and extend loans for his client and reform the industry.

    “If you want to ensure that medallion industry nationwide continues to operate, if you want to have services available to riders that don’t have iPhones, if you want to have drivers that are vetted, then there’s going to have to be a major change nationwide and city-by-city in terms of how they’re going about enforcing the rules,” said Ronn Torossian, a spokesman for Freidman.

    Even in Nevada, where the taxi industry has successfully fought off attempts by Uber to establish a beachhead in recent years, there are signs that government resistance to rideshare services is softening. Last week, the Nevada Senate approved legislation that would create regulations that would allow people to hail a ride using a smartphone.

    There are other signs that medallion industry’s vitality is on unsteady footing.

    Earlier this month, Medallion Financial Group—one of the country’s largest creditors to medallion owners—reported in its financial disclosures that nearly 4.1% of its loans were late 31 days or more in the first three months of 2015, up from 2.2% in the previous quarter.

    Charles Goodbar, a Chicago attorney who helps secure loans for medallion owners, said that financing has all but dried up. At the same time, new regulations, as well competition from ridesharing services, has reduced how much fleet owners in Chicago and elsewhere can lease their vehicles to cabbies.

    “There’s zero market,” said Goodbar, who also owns 59 medallions. “In my case, a buyer would have to come to the table with about $220,000 in cash per medallion, because there isn’t any financing available.”
    An UBER application is shown as cars drive by in Washington,

    An UBER application is shown as cars drive by in Washington, DC on March 25, 2015. (Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS, AFP/Getty Images)

    Ancillary industries are also feeling the pain.

    Carriage News, a New England industry newsletter closed shop in March, as medallion financing agencies slowed issuing loans, making advertising unnecessary.

    “The demise of Carriage News can be laid directly at the feet of the TNCs [transportation network companies] and the do-nothing politicians who allow these ... operations to continue to erode the taxi industry,” publisher Bob Keeley wrote in a front-page editorial announcing the 45-year-old publication’s demise.

    The taxi industry isn’t going out without a fight.

    In New York and Chicago, the industry has backed efforts for a universal hailing app in a bid to compete with rideshare outfits for riders that prefer the convenience of finding a ride with a couple of taps on their smartphone.

    And the trade association Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association (TLPA) has launched a vigorous media nationwide campaign called “Who’s Driving You?” in an attempt to raise questions about Uber and other ridesharing companies safety record. The TLPA maintains a long list of alleged crimes and other embarrassing incidents by Uber drivers and drivers for other ridesharing outfits.

    After the latest high-profile incident last month in Houston, an alleged sexual assault by an Uber driver, the company faced an ultimatum from Mayor Annise Parker to tighten its oversight of drivers or face expulsion from the city. The company quickly responded to the city with a memo detailing how it would it planned to bolster vetting and dismiss drivers that aren’t registered

    In New York, the Taxi and Limousine Commission is weighing a proposal that would create an agency that oversee the implementation of smartphone apps used in the taxi industry.

    Under the proposal, the smartphone app operators would be required to approval before modifying their apps or face fines—a regulation that a powerful coalition of Silicon Valley companies told New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would stifle innovation.

    “While we do not develop software for transportation providers, we are gravely concerned by the unprecedented decision to subject software available around the world to pre-release review by a city agency,” wrote the Internet Association, the tech coalition that includes Facebook, Google and Twitter.

    While more regulation on ridesharing companies may be inevitable, many medallion owners say that their best days are now in the rearview mirror.

    “It’s now become a race to the bottom,” said Karczewski, the Chicago medallion owner. “I’m at the end of my career, but guys who have a lot of skin in the game...What are they going to do?”

    #taxi #usa #uber #disruption

  • New York City becomes the largest school district in the nation to recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as holidays on the official school calendar
    http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/mediarelations/NewsandSpeeches/2014-2015/Mayor+De+Blasio+and+Chancellor+Fari%C3%B1a+Designate+Eid+Al-Fitr+and+Ei

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced that New York City will become the largest school district in the nation to recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as holidays on the official school calendar. In the coming 2015-16 school year, schools will close on September 24 for the Eid al-Adha, ensuring hundreds of thousands of Muslim families can observe the day. Eid al-Fitr, which falls over the summer in 2016, will be designated a holiday for those attending summer school. New York City schools will not lose any instructional days as part of this change to the calendar.

    _“I am truly happy and highly appreciate our Mayor that after a long time of waiting, finally our kids in public schools throughout five boroughs don’t have to choose again between their school and their religious practice. Today, I am a prouder New Yorker,”_ said Imam Shamsi Ali, Spiritual Leader of Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens.

    #laïcité ! #islam #religion #école @pguilli @alaingresh

    Cf. Une timide brise de gauche souffle sur New York, par Eric Alterman
    http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2014/07/ALTERMAN/50640