A Word or Two From A Retired Medallion Owner
by Abe Mittleman
It was Sept 1970 when I first stepped into a Medallion Taxi to earn a living. I instantly found that this was a job I would enjoy doing. Now it is 51 years later, 42 of those years I was an active driver. I am still connected to the business as a medallion owner.
In 1977 I decided to invest in a medallion. The medallions at that time were mostly being sold as mini-fleets. Some of the taxi fleets at that time wanted to divest from the medallions that they owned. The TLC that was created in 1971 was going to start making rules and regulations for these fleets. They were leery of this still new bureaucracy that had been created and reasoned that maybe itís time to quit. So, in order to buy a medallion I was only being offered to own a mini- fleet. So I needed a partner. I couldnít and didnít want to handle the running of two vehicles. One was enough for me.
All was well for the next 35 years. I made money! I was able to lease my taxi to other drivers and make a little money doing that and I was able to drive a few days a week. The drivers were paying enough for me to pay most of the expenses and the money I made driving was enough for my personal needs. I was paying all my bills. My drivers were doing well making money for themselfs. Although no one was getting wealthy, everyone was happy.
The medallion during these years was rising in value. I bought in 1977 for 28,000. Many cars were bought to keep the business running during those years. In 1977, the first car I bought was only $6,000. Running the taxi 7 days a week 20 to 24 hours a day wore most cars out within 3 years. Much money had to be borrowed to replace these cars. Fortunately the medallion was increasing in value so financing was not a problem. But, the debt was rising. The new vehicles thru the years rose in price to over $20,000 and the last car that was bought by me brought my debt to over $150,000 by the year 2001. Never the less I was determined to pay my debt off. When I quit driving in late 2012 my debt was down to $60,000 and I had that much in the bank if I wanted to pay it off completely. I also had enough money in the bank for my wife and I to move to Florida in 2013. I said after moving that I was in heaven and I didnít have to die. The NYC Taxi Business had been very good to me. The 42 years of struggling and hard work had paid me a very good retirement!
Well, not so fast, there is more to this story. Remember, I had a partner in the mini fleet and this would later come back to haunt me. Let me explain:
Turn the clock back to 2008. My partner wanted to sell his half of the Mini-Fleet. I wasnít financially ready to do so. I could have bought his half. But, I didnít want to borrow the going rate at that time, $600,000. And I certainly didnít want to look after another taxi and the drivers I would have to hire. One was tough enough. The thought of two would be a nightmare. So, I suggested that he sell to our insurance broker. We both knew him well and I trusted that he would be a good partner. We both agreed. So, he did.
All was still well. So well, that when I stopped driving I gave my new partner my medallion to run. He also manages and leases out medallions. In 2014 he offered me $1,000,000 for my medallion. I wasnít sure what I wanted to do. I was getting a very good monthly income from my medallion and like all others had no idea of what would happen in the not long future to come. I told him I needed one more year to think it over.
Well, it was only 4 months later that my medallion became un-sellable. Uber had broken through and the medallion prices started to go down. My broker/partner was no longer willing to buy and no one else would be willing to buy because of my partners debt. Between that time and the present the income I was drawing from the medallion and and the price of the medallion both have fallen to ď0". My medallion is one of the 7000 medallions that are sitting on the shelf at the TLC. And, since Iím a cosigner to my partners loan I risk my assets on his loans. I did pay off my debt on the mini-fleet but that doesnít protect me. I can barely survive. All I can hope for now is that business picks up and my medallion is put back on the street by my broker/partner and I have an income from this.
But there is some hope. The medallion system is not dead and NYC is making a come back. There will be a need for the medallion industry to get those medallions off the shelf and back on the streets. There have been ideas floating around for several years on how to rescue the Yellow Medallion Taxis. But, one that has recently been suggested is known as
ďTHE POLLACK PLANĒ. It makes 100% sense! 7000 medallions are sitting at the TLC not making 1 penny now. The plan calls for the oversee from NYC of the leasing of these medallions. This plan would give 40% of the income to the struggling medallion owners and 40% to NYC. The other 20% would be used for the expenses to run the business IE: Vehicles, Insurance and Maintenance. This sounds great to me! Read more onNYC Taxi News or The April edition of Taxi Livery Times
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