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NEW YORK – Dozens of yellow cab drivers went on hunger strike on Wednesday that they deem necessary to get help with their dire financial situation.
They said they hoped they wouldn’t have to starve for long. Mayor Bill de Blasio is building on a city initiative that is providing $ 65 million in financial assistance to thousands of taxi drivers. Many of these drivers say it’s not enough to get them out of debt anytime soon, if ever.
This is why they have been demonstrating 24 hours a day about 100 meters from the town hall, at the town hall, for more than a month. Wednesday was the first day they added the hunger strike to the protest.
Some hunger strikers admitted it was going to be difficult.
“I am worried about my health,” said Richard Chow, a yellow cab driver who is taking part in the hunger strike. “Myself, I have diabetes, I have high blood pressure and we have no choice.”
He was among thousands of drivers who borrowed money from lenders to buy taxi medallions – business permits issued by the city – shortly before each medallion’s value plummeted. It came after the city allowed rideshare companies to operate, without a medallion, protesting drivers said.
In Chow’s case, he borrowed $ 410,000 to pay for his locket.
âNow I still owe $ 389,000,â Chow said.
The mayor of Blasio said on Wednesday that he felt the situation in which the drivers find themselves and that the city is giving them financial assistance.
“We have tried to help them in a number of ways,” the mayor told PIX11 News at his daily press conference, “including creating a relief program to reduce the debt, make it more manageable, with an investment. major of the city “.
The city’s plan, which is already in place, provides debt relief of $ 200,000 or more to any approved driver. Each driver then has to pay around $ 1,500 to $ 1,600 per month to pay off the debt. The program costs $ 65 million.
In contrast, the New York Taxi Workers‘ Alliance, the union representing yellow cab drivers, has come up with its own plan. If the city adopted it, it would leave each driver with a city guaranteed loan of $ 145,000, which they would repay at a rate of $ 800 per month, or less. Their plan, they say, would cost a maximum of $ 93 million.
It was endorsed by Sen. Charles Schumer and city comptroller Scott Stringer, whose job it is to analyze city spending, said the drivers’ proposal was financially sound.
The hunger strikers will take turns going without food, some for days, others for weeks. Some of the strikers said they intend to starve on purpose for as long as it takes for their plan to be accepted by the city.