Feb. 10, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A Queens resident running for City Council is in danger of losing her family home due to her father’s inability to repay a taxi medallion loan he took out years ago.
Felicia Singh, a school teacher running for the Council District 32 seat representing Southeast Queens, said she was horrified to learn that a bankruptcy court had permitted the placement of a “For Sale” sign outside her parents’ Ozone Park home on Friday — with no warning.
“We were in deep shock,” Singh told the Queens Post. “The way we [first] found out was someone rang the doorbell to ask for a listing price.”
Bank trustees told her family on Friday that they had 86 days to come up with more than $100,000 or the house would be sold — leaving her parents, brother, sister and herself homeless, Singh said.
Singh’s 66-year-old father, an Indian immigrant and taxi driver for the past 32 years, was forced to declare bankruptcy due to his inability to pay the loan. More than 950 taxi medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a 2019 New York Times article.
Her father is a victim of the taxi medallion crisis, Singh said, in which many immigrant New Yorkers bought the sought-after medallions with money borrowed from questionable lenders. The medallions, which at one time were seen as good investments, permit a driver to own a yellow cab and be their own boss.
Singh said her family’s situation “illuminates how much neglect the city has had in facing the medallion crisis head-on.”
“This is where it leads people–to be homeless,” she added.
I am the daughter of a taxi driver. Due to our inability to pay our taxi medallion loan, my father had to file for bankruptcy. This past Friday, the bankruptcy court put a “For Sale” sign on our house. There is already an offer on our home, and the trustees are ready to sell.
— Felicia Singh for City Council (@FSingh_NYC) February 9, 2021
The medallion crisis was covered in depth by the New York Times in 2019 after a slew of yellow cab drivers committed suicide. The newspaper uncovered that much of the devastation was caused by a handful of taxi company owners — in concert with unscrupulous lenders and city officials — who artificially drove up the price of the medallions year after year.
The city, Singh said, has done little to help the drivers since the predatory practices were uncovered.
“This has been going on for so many years and my story is illuminating that nothing has changed,” she said.
Her situation is not an anomaly, she added, and will continue to happen unless the mayor provides debt relief to taxi drivers and their families.
Singh is urging City Hall to enact a plan for debt forgiveness developed by the union representing cab drivers, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA). The proposal has the support of New York Attorney General Letitia James and City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, said that the city needs federal aid money in order to adopt any debt forgiveness plan.
“If we get money from the Congress, I want to find a way to help these drivers,” de Blasio said last week on the Brian Lehrer show. “I don’t have a specific proposal yet… But it hinges on getting the relief we need.”
The NYTWA plan is estimated to cost the city $75 million over 20 years, according to the union.
Singh said if any good could come from her family’s misfortune, it would be to help others facing similar troubles.
Singh will testify during a City Council hearing on taxi driver debt this morning — around the same time that a broker is showing her family’s home.
“I’m planning to make as much noise as possible about this and not just for my family, but for all the taxi drivers, all of the essential workers who are facing the same terrible system,” she said.
Singh is one of 10 candidates running for the council seat representing the neighborhoods of Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Rockaway Park, Roxbury, South Ozone Park, West Hamilton Beach and Woodhaven.
The District 32 council seat is currently held by Queens’ lone Republican council member, Eric Ulrich, who is term-limited.
Other candidates vying for the seat include Kaled Alamarie, Joann Ariola, Ruben Cruz, Raimondo Graziano, Bella Matias, Michael Scala, Shaeleigh Severino, Helal Sheikh and Kenichi Wilson, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.