New York City will launch a $65 mil- lion “relief fund” to help taxi drivers restructure their debt, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday 9 March. According to the New York Post, the fund will provide “financially-distressed” drivers a zero-interest $20,000 loan plus another $9,000 to restructure the debt on their medal- lions, which the city sold them at a premium based on the dubious promise of future dividends. The relief fund will be paid for using money from the federal $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill. Taxi drivers, many of whom were already struggling to repay their loans before Covid-19, have been financially devastated by a massive drop in ridership in the last year. “Many medallion owners are struggling and have asked for assistance from the city,” said Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk, the chair of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. “We understand the gravity of their situation. They need help with this debt to survive.” But de Blasio’s plan falls short of the desires of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which has called for a gigantic bailout to cut every driver’s debt to $125,000, with the city providing the money to make it happen. An investigation by the New York Times in 2019 found that the city knowingly misled thousands of people into taking on debt to buy taxi medallions at inflated costs. Some 6,000-plus drivers and retired drivers were impacted, according to NYTWA’s estimate. “The mayor’s plan is a disgraceful betrayal from a city that already has blood on its hands,” said Bhairavi Desai, the group’s director. “We’ve given the mayor ample opportunity to respond to our proposal. Instead, he put forward a plan that costs the city more than our proposal while doing absolutely nothing for the drivers.” The NYTWA proposal is supported by a number of prominent political leaders, including Attorney General Letitia James, who last month backed off an $800 million suit against the city over the situation — saying massive debt-restructuring was the better course of action. “This isn’t going to be nearly enough,” tweeted State Sen.


Jessica Ramos, who sponsors NYTWA’s plan in the state legislature. “We need real debt forgiveness and a robust plan so that no more taxi drivers face bankruptcy and lose their homes, their retirement savings, or worse.” New York cabbies reacted to the news with daily protests for over a week against Mayor de Blasio’s plan. Democracy Now reports that the cabbies have been demanding a living wage and chanting: “No more suicide! No more bankruptcy! No more bankruptcy! No more suicide!” Bhairavi Desai stated: “It’s a cash bailout for lenders while drivers are left to drown in debt, foreclosure, and bankruptcy. The mayor’s plan is a disgraceful betrayal from a city that already has blood on its hands.”

from Israel


The Israeli Metro Kav taxi company won a tender from the Israeli Ministry of Transportation to operate its taxi fleet with a unique disinfection tech- nology to minimise exposure to coronavirus (Covid-19) pathogens. According to CTech, it plans to deploy the auto-cool ADS3000 filtration system following a three-month long successful pilot project, and is the first such air filtration system to disinfect viruses and bacteria that can be fitted inside air conditioning ducts. It will be deployed on shared taxis in central Israel, in the cities of Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Holon, and Rishon Lezion. The company developed smart filters that can be placed into existing vehicular air conditioners, with a smart algorithm that alerts the driver when the filter has to be replaced. The system may also be operated by remote control. “We examined a large number of advanced technologies over the past year, under the assumption that we will all have to learn to live with the coronavirus for some time to come,” Ilan Zikri, CEO of Metro Kav said. “Our goal is to make this timely system accessible around the world to facilitate its adoption in all modes of transporta- tion” said Ziv Farber, CEO of Auto-Cool, adding that laboratory tests of the filters showed 100% efficiency in successfully removing coronavirus pathogens and other bacteria from the air.

APRIL 2021

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