February 10, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A Queens resident running for city council is at risk of losing her family home due to her father’s inability to repay a taxi locket loan he took out years ago.
Felicia Singh, a teacher candidate for the District 32 seat of the council representing South East Queens, said she was horrified to learn that a bankruptcy court had authorized a “For Sale” sign to be put up. “in front of her parents’ house in Ozone Park on Friday – without Attention.
“We were in shock,” Singh told the Queens Post. “The way we [first] discovered that someone had rang the doorbell asking for a registration fee.
Bank administrators told her family on Friday they had 86 days to find more than $ 100,000 or else the house would be sold, leaving her parents, brother, sister and herself homeless, said Singh.
Singh’s father, 66, an Indian immigrant and a 32-year taxi driver, was forced to file for bankruptcy due to his inability to repay the loan. More than 950 taxi medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a 2019 New York Times article.
Her father fell victim to the taxi locket crisis, Singh said, in which many New York immigrants bought the wanted lockets with money borrowed from dubious lenders. Medallions, which were once considered good investments, allow a driver to own a yellow cab and be their own boss.
Singh said his family’s plight “illustrates how the city has been neglected to deal head-on with the medallion crisis.”
“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 locket loan, my father had to file for bankruptcy. Last Friday, the bankruptcy court put a “For Sale” sign on our house. There is already an offer on our house, 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 scores of yellow cab drivers took their own lives. The newspaper found that much of the devastation was caused by a handful of taxi company owners – in concert with unscrupulous lenders and city officials – who artificially increased the price of medallions year after year.
The city, Singh said, has done little to help drivers since the predatory practices were discovered.
“It has been going on for so many years and my story shows that nothing has changed,” she said.
Her situation is not an anomaly, she added, and will continue to happen unless the mayor grants debt relief to taxi drivers and their families.
Singh is urging city hall to adopt a debt cancellation plan developed by the union representing taxi drivers, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA). The proposal has the Support New York Attorney General Letitia James; and City Comptroller and Mayoral Candidate Scott Stringer.
However, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city needed federal help to pass a debt cancellation plan.
“If we get money from Congress, I want to find a way to help these pilots,” de Blasio said last week on the Brian Lehrer show. “I don’t have a specific proposal yet… But it depends on getting the relief we need. “
The NYTWA plan is expected to cost the city $ 75 million over 20 years, according to the union.
Singh said that if his family’s misfortune could bring any good, it would be to help others facing similar issues.
Singh will testify this morning at a city council hearing on taxi driver debt – around the same time a broker shows his family’s home.
“I plan to make as much noise as possible about this and not just for my family, but for all the taxi drivers, all the essential workers who are facing the same terrible system,” she said.
Singh is one of 10 candidates for 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 occupied by the only member of the Queens Republican Council, Eric Ulrich, with a limited tenure.
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.