Blogs

1 week 3 days ago

 By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
New York became the first major American city on Wednesday to halt new vehicle licenses for ride-hail services, dealing a significant setback to Uber in its largest market in the United States.
The legislation passed overwhelmingly by the City Council will cap the number of for-hire vehicles for a year while the city studies the booming industry. The bills also allow New York to set a minimum pay rate for drivers.
Uber has become one of Silicon Valley’s biggest success stories and changed the way people across the globe get around. But it has faced increased scrutiny from government regulators and struggled to overcome its image as a company determined to grow at all costs with little regard for its impact on cities.
New York’s move to restrict the number of ride-hail vehicles and to establish pay rules for drivers — another step no other major city has taken — could provide a model for other governments that want to rein in the industry. New York’s aggressive stance also raises questions over how fast Uber can continue to grow as the company, which has been valued at $62 billion, plans to move toward an initial public offering next year.
The proposal to cap ride-hail companies led to a clash among interest groups with taxi industry officials saying the companies were dooming their business and Uber mounting a major advertising campaign to make the case that yellow cabs have a history of discriminating against people of color.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, said the bills will curtail the worsening traffic on the streets and improve low driver wages.
“We are pausing the issuance of new licenses in an industry that has been allowed to proliferate without any appropriate check or regulation,” Mr. Johnson said before the vote, adding that the rules would not diminish existing service for New Yorkers who rely on ride-hail apps.
Mr. de Blasio praised the bills and said he planned to sign them into law. The cap on new for-hire vehicles would take effect immediately.
“More than 100,000 workers and their families will see an immediate benefit from this legislation,” Mr. de Blasio said, referring to the city’s army of for-hire drivers. “And this action will stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt.”
But Uber has warned its riders that the cap could produce higher prices and longer wait times for passengers if the company cannot keep up with the growing demand. Ride-hail apps have become a crucial backup option for New Yorkers swept up in the constant delays on the city’s sputtering subway, as happened on Wednesday when signal problems again snarled train lines across a large swath of the city. Ride-hail services have also grown in neighborhoods outside Manhattan where the subway does not reach.
The battle over Uber’s future in New York has been prompted in part by growing concerns over financial turmoil among drivers — a problem underscored by six driver suicides in recent months. On Wednesday, a large group of drivers rallied outside City Hall before the vote and held signs displaying the names of the drivers who took their lives.
New York is the latest city to grapple with questions over how to regulate the company. In London, Uber’s most lucrative European market, Uber recently regained its taxi license after the company agreed to stricter regulations, including providing the city with the trove of traffic data that the firm collects and has often been reluctant to share. Uber has also faced regulatory battles in American cities, like Austin, Tex., and in countries like Canada, Brazil and Italy.
In Seattle, the City Council approved a bill allowing Uber drivers to form unions, but the measure has faced a legal challenge. Uber left Austin in 2016 after the City Council passed a measure requiring the company to perform fingerprint background checks, though Uber later returned to the city. The mayor of Honolulu recently vetoed a bill to cap price increases by Uber during busy periods.
The company’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, has embarked on a global charm offensive to repair the company’s image after a series of controversies, including complaints among workers over gender discrimination and harassment.
Uber criticized the Council’s decision to approve the cap, but said the company would work to keep up with the increasing appeal of its service despite the limit on new vehicles. 
“The City’s 12-month pause on new vehicle licenses will threaten one of the few reliable transportation options while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion,” Josh Gold, a spokesman for Uber, said in a statement.
Anand Sanwal, chief executive of CB Insights, a software company that examines technology trends, said the cap could impact Uber’s public offering if it reduces revenues and emboldens other cities to take similar action.
“If it changes their growth trajectory, that could have an impact on their valuation and the narrative around the company,” Mr. Sanwal said.
Uber said the company would immediately reach out to tens of thousands of for-hire vehicle owners who are already licensed but work for other local car services and try to recruit them to work for Uber. The company said it would also continue to press for another solution, known as congestion pricing — a proposal to toll drivers entering Manhattan’s busiest neighborhoods and that would require approval from state lawmakers.
Many experts believe congestion pricing is the best way for New York City to fix congestion and secure the funds needed to fix the subway. Mr. Johnson supports the idea, but Mr. de Blasio has opposed it. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who controls the subway, has said he will push for congestion pricing during the next state legislative session to help pay for an ambitious, multibillion dollar overhaul plan for the subway.
The City Council approved the cap in a 39-to-6 vote. Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican from Queens, said he opposed the cap, arguing that limiting Uber to help yellow taxis was similar to regulating Netflix, the streaming service, to help Blockbuster, the video rental chain.
The legislation allows for the city’s taxi commission to add more licenses if there is a clear need for more vehicles in some neighborhoods. In New York, many Uber drivers work full time and the city regulates Uber vehicles as part of the for-hire vehicle industry, which is different than other cities.
The City Council also moved recently to regulate Airbnb, another tech company that has upended the hotel industry. Mr. Johnson, a Democrat who became City Council speaker in January, has quickly taken bold steps to make a name for himself on high-profile issues, including convincing the mayor to pay for half-price MetroCards for poor New Yorkers.
Many taxi and Uber drivers say they support the cap proposal. They hope it will halt the flood of new vehicles clogging city streets and allow them to make more trips and improve their earnings. Uber and other ride-hail services could add new vehicles only if they are wheelchair accessible.
Lyft, the second most popular app in New York, also criticized the vote: “These sweeping cuts to transportation will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of color and in the outer boroughs,” Joseph Okpaku, a vice president at Lyft, said in a statement.
The vote was a moment of vindication for Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, who lost a bruising battle with Uber over a proposal for a cap in 2015. Since then, the number of for-hire vehicles in the city has surged to more than 100,000 vehicles, from about 63,000 in 2015, according to the city.
The taxi industry has also been decimated by Uber’s rise. The price of a taxi medallion, which is required to operate a taxi in New York, has plunged from more than $1 million to less than $200,000.
Elizabeth Cassarino, a yellow taxi driver, said she supports the cap and hopes it will improve business for taxis. As she drove a taxi through the clogged streets of Manhattan on Wednesday, she said her credit cards were maxed out and she had trouble making enough money to pay for food.
“Finally,” she said. “We’re starving to death.”
Copyright 2018 The New York Times Company.  All rights reserved.


1 week 4 days ago

This item is part of a series of blog posts about bankruptcy traps that can turn a Tacoma bankruptcy filing into an expensive or less than smooth process. If you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.
7. Leaving Money in Account Where You also Have a Credit Account
One expensive error in a bankruptcy filing is leaving money in a bank account where you also have a credit card or some form of debt stemming from a credit account. Filing bankruptcy under these circumstances entitles the bank or credit union to empty your account and apply the proceeds to your debt. Do all banks and credit unions do this? The answer is no, but caution argues for you to start putting your paycheck in a bank or credit union where you have no credit relationship as soon as you know that you are filing bankruptcy.
Many of our Tacoma clients find this troublesome. After all, many of them have had relationships with their credit unions for decades. The fact is though that you don’t have to close your account or take any dramatic action, you just need to put your money someplace else until your bankruptcy is completed. Failing that, I would contact your bank or credit union, maybe anonymously, to find out whether they freeze accounts.
Forewarned is forearmed.
8. Inheritance Within 6 Months After Filing for Bankruptcy
In a Tacoma chapter 7 bankruptcy, the income you receive after your case is filed is, within reason, largely irrelevant to the bankruptcy court. There is one huge exception tough.
If you become entitled to an inheritance within 180 days after your bankruptcy case is filed, you must notify your attorney so that he can notify the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee will then distribute the inheritance in order to pay off your creditors. You will only get what’s left after your creditors and the trustee’s fees are paid off.
It is extremely important to understand that it is not a matter of whether you receive an inheritance within 180 days, the triggering event is someone dying within the 180 day period. If someone does and you are in the will, it can take years for the inheritance to be distributed and the trustee will still be able to come after your share.
9. Personal Injury Claims
If prior to the filing of your bankruptcy you are injured and a personal injury claim arises, the funds stemming from the eventual recovery is personal property. While there are exemptions that will likely enable you to protect at least $20,000 of the eventual award, you should know that just because you haven’t received the funds yet or settled your claim, it has already arisen. A Tacoma Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee will patiently wait until the matter is settled before grabbing any amount not protected by your available exemptions.
You must let your bankruptcy lawyer know if you have been in an accident or expect some type of settlement or payout so that your lawyer can properly advise you as to when your bankruptcy case should be filed. Sometimes it is better to wait until the personal injury claim has been settled and paid before jumping into a bankruptcy case. Other times it doesn’t matter at all.

The post Tacoma Bankruptcy Traps – A Four Part Series – Part 3 appeared first on Portland Bankruptcy Attorney | Northwest Debt Relief.


1 week 4 days ago

Many individuals who owns taxi medallions that are “underwater” (the amount of the bank loan exceeds the value of the medallion) are interested in cramming down the taxi medallion loan so that the secured portion of the taxi medallion loan equals the value of the taxi medallion and the remainder of the taxi medallion loan would be treated as unsecured debt.

As discussed below, the secured portion of the taxi medallion loan would be paid in full and the unsecured portion would be paid pennies on the dollar, allowing the medallion owner to pay the bank less than the full amount of its loan and keep the medallion!

In the way of background, chapter 13 is not available to corporations or limited liability companies; pursuant to § 109(e) of the Bankruptcy Code, only individuals can file for chapter 13 bankruptcy. So, if a mini fleet was owned by a corporation or an LLC, a chapter 13 filing would not be permitted. The corporation or LLC could file for chapter 7 or chapter 11 bankruptcy (see our previous blog post on chapter 11 and cramdown).

In our example, let’s assume that a taxi medallion is worth $175,000 and the individual who owns that medallion owes the bank $500,000 (the collateral for the loan is the taxi medallion). $175,000 of the debt would be deemed secured and the remaining $325,000 would be deemed unsecured.

To file for chapter 13 bankruptcy, there are debt limitations; pursuant to § 109(e) of the Bankruptcy Code, an individual debtor must have unsecured debt of less than $394,725 and secured debt of less than $1,184,200.

Chapter 13 also requires that the debtor (medallion owner) must have a job or regular source of income to fund the chapter 13 plan. The duration of a chapter 13 plan is generally three to five years. A medallion owner filing for chapter 13 must pay the bank and other creditors $1 more than they would get in a chapter 7 bankruptcy (the “best interest of creditors” test) and the bankruptcy judge must determine that the plan is feasible, meaning that the debtor will be able to make the payments under the plan.

If the above requirements are met, and the bank will not agree to have its debt bifurcated into secured and unsecured components, the debtor must move to “cram down” the bank or secured creditor.

Cramming down a secured creditor is detailed in § 1325(a)(5)(B) of the Bankruptcy Code and the relevant provisions are as follows:

  1. The first essential element in chapter 13 cramdown is that the plan provides for the retention of the lien securing the allowed secured claim by the bank.
  2. Chapter 13 cramdown requires that the chapter 13 plan propose to distribute property having a value, as of the effective date of the plan, at least equal to the amount of the allowed secured claim. The effective date of the plan will ordinarily be provided for by the plan and may be the date the order confirming the chapter 13 plan becomes final.
  3. Property can be distributed to the bank over the course of the plan period. The property may be property of the estate in existence at the date of confirmation, or deferred cash payments representing future earnings or income of the chapter 13 debtor, provided that at the time the plan becomes effective, the value of the property to be distributed in the future equals the amount of the allowed secured claim.
  4. Section 1325(a)(5)(B)(iii)(I) provides that if property to be distributed to the holder of an allowed secured claim is via periodic payments, such payments shall be in equal monthly amounts.
  5. The valuation conducted by the court under § 1325(a)(5)(B)(ii) is meant to determine whether the property to be distributed under the plan is at least equal in value to the amount of the allowed secured claim. In most chapter 13 cases, the property to be distributed under the plan will consist of deferred cash payments derived from the earnings or other future income of the chapter 13 debtor during the plan period.
  6. Section 1325(a)(5)(B)(ii) requires the court to determine the value of property to be distributed under the plan, as of the effective date of the plan. In other words, the court must ascertain the present value of the property to be distributed. Accordingly, in addition to deferred principal payments aggregating the face amount of the allowed secured claim, a chapter 13 plan need only propose to pay interest on the amount of the allowed secured claim at the appropriate rate (many courts have endorsed using the prime rate plus a risk premium of 1 to 3 percent) over the duration of the plan.
  7. Section 1325(a)(5)(B)(ii) requires that the present value of property to be distributed under the plan be not less than the amount of the allowed secured claim. The amount of the allowed secured claim is determined in accordance with the provisions of §§ 506(a) and (b) of the Bankruptcy Code. Section 506(a) provides that an allowed claim is either undersecured or oversecured, based on a determination by the court as to whether the property secured by the creditor’s lien has a value that is greater or smaller than the amount of the allowed claim.

Therefore in our example, let’s assume that the interest rate on the $500,000 loan was 5% (the current prime rate) and the Debtor proposed a chapter 13 plan, to cramdown the bank, by allowing the bank to retain its lien during the term of the loan and repaying the bank $175,000 over 5 years at 6% (prime rate plus a risk premium of 1%), or monthly payments of $3,383.00, month, plus chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee payments of a maximum of 10% per plan payment, then the Debtor could confirm a chapter 13 plan and keep the medallion, if it made 5 years (60 months of payments) at $3,383 per month or $3,721.30 per month with the 10% Bankruptcy Trustee fee included.

Besides a chapter 13 cramdown, a medallion owner may also want to consider a workout with the bank, a chapter 7 bankruptcy or surrendering the medallion to the bank. Individuals with underwater medallions should talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney before deciding on what strategy to pursue. Jim


1 week 4 days ago

The July 2018 New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) sales results have been released to the public. And as is our practice, provided below are James Shenwick’s comments about those sales results.
1. The volume of transfers fell from June. In July, there were 36 taxi medallion sales.
2. 22 of the 36 sales were foreclosure sales, which means that the medallion owner defaulted on the bank loan and the banks were foreclosing to obtain possession of the medallion. We disregard these transfers in our analysis of the data, because we believe that they are outliers and not indicative of the true value of the medallion, which is a sale between a buyer and a seller under no pressure to sell (fair market value).  Three transfers were estate sales for no consideration and two transfers were also for no consideration, which also do not reflect fair market value and which we have also excluded from our analysis.
3. However the large volume of foreclosure sales (approximately 61%) is in our opinion evidence of the continued weakness in the taxi medallion market.
4. The nine regular sales for consideration ranged from a low of $160,000 (two medallions), $170,000 (two medallions), $175,000 (two medallions), $200,000 (one medallion) and an unusual high of $500,000 (two medallions).
5.  Accordingly, the median value of a medallion in July was $175,000.
Please continue to read our blog to see what happens to medallion pricing in the future. Any individuals or businesses with questions about taxi medallion valuations or workouts should contact Jim Shenwick at (212) 541-6224 or via email at jshenwick@gmail.com.


1 week 5 days ago

I have seen a lot of clients recently who have had to file bankruptcy because they turned their cars in to the dealership.  They expected that this it would be a solution to the problem of a car payment they could not afford.  Nope.  Big, big mistake.
Turning in a car to the dealership is, for legal purposes, exactly the same as a repossession.  The dealer goes through the same steps.  The dealer takes the car to auction and sells it — usually to themselves — for way less than the amount of the outstanding loan.
The remaining loan balance — known as a deficiency — is usually the subject of a lawsuit against the borrower.  Most of the time, the borrower does not bother to contest the lawsuit. (There are few legal defenses to the lawsuit on the deficiency anyway.)  The result is a judgment against the borrower, often for tens of thousands of dollars.
Continue reading


1 week 4 days ago

Wells Fargo admitted last week that a calculation error involving a mortgage underwriting tool caused over 620 customers to being incorrectly refused modifications to make their loans more affordable. In the majority of these cases, the customers were forced into foreclosure and/or bankruptcy.
The flaw in the underwriting tool was found in an internal review, Wells said. The bank also noted that it has set aside over seven million for customers who were harmed by the error.
Wells also admitted that federal agencies are currently investigating how the bank bought certain federal low-income housing tax credits in connection with the financing of low-income housing developments.
The recent Wells disclosure is just the latest in a long stream of revelations about their practices that have harmed consumers. The U.S. Department of Justice has already imposed over two billion in fines on Wells for mortgages it made and sold to investors based on misrepresentations about the quality of residential loans. Once the loans went bad, investors lost literally billions of dollars.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have imposed fines of over $1 billion on Wells for bad mortgage and auto-lending practices.
Wells has promised to do better. No one has gone to jail. God only knows how many bankruptcies have been filed and household finances ruined for families across the state of Washington. Many of us still have accounts there.
It doesn’t take much for any family to go under. Most families are ultimately two missed paychecks away from having to file bankruptcy. Maybe not today but some months later as things start to snowball. If you are in a bad car loan or falling behind on a mortgage, let us know. There are options under the bankruptcy code that can even help you with the worst Wells Fargo loan.
The post Wells Fargo Admits Error that Created Hundreds of Foreclosures and Bankruptcies appeared first on Portland Bankruptcy Attorney | Northwest Debt Relief.


1 week 4 days ago

In my last post, I noted that I would be discussing twelve potential bankruptcy traps for anyone thinking about bankruptcy in the Tacoma area. Note: Most of these traps are easily avoided. Frankly, many of these traps apply to consumers nationwide, but I wrote these posts with Tacoma filers in mind. I discussed the first three bankruptcy traps in my last post The second three traps are as follows:
4. Selling Property for Less than Face Value
Sometimes people think they can avoid losing money in bankruptcy by transferring property out of their name prior to the filing of their bankruptcy. But it rarely works.
If you sell something prior to the filing of your bankruptcy case you must sell it for approximately what it is worth. For example, let’s say you have a car that is worth about $10,000 and want to sell it prior to filing for bankruptcy. If you were to sell it in a legitimate sale for $9,800 and title actually transferred then there wouldn’t be a problem with you filing for bankruptcy. But, if you sold that same car for $400, way less than what it is worth, then the bankruptcy trustee could go back, void the sale, get the car back, sell at face value, and then distribute the money to your creditors.
If you are thinking of filing for bankruptcy and think you need to sell something, ask your lawyer first. Chances are you won’t lose it in bankruptcy if you keep it. If you must sell something, make sure you sell it for what it is worth, make sure money actually changes hands and document the sale.
5. Payments to Unsecured Creditors in the 90 Days Prior to Filing Bankruptcy
If you pay an unsecured creditor within the ninety days prior to your bankruptcy filing, the Tacoma bankruptcy trustee can contact the creditor and demand the money back. Then, once they have the money, they will distribute it out to creditors evenly.
For example, let’s say that within 90 days prior to filing for bankruptcy you pay a photographer in Fife for the pictures they took of your anniversary party. The bankruptcy trustee can go and demand that those funds be paid back to the bankruptcy estate and then paid out to your creditors.
For many people, this is not a big deal. But sometimes it is. Maybe you paid your kid’s dentist or paid off an old bill to a child care provider or what if you want to do business with the Fife photographer again. Not much point of paying a service provider that you want to use in the future in the ninety days prior to filing if the trustee might go back and take the money from them.
6. Non-Homestead Real Estate
In Tacoma, the Washington homestead exemption protects up to $125,000 in equity in your home. However, if you have a cabin, condo, or some other sort of real estate in your name, and that property has any equity in it, there is no homestead exemption to protect it. While there is a miscellaneous exemption available to protect about $10,000 in equity in a non-homestead piece of real estate, that is not big enough to stop a Tacoma Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee from stepping in and selling the property, paying off any liens on the property and then taking most of the money, and doling it out to your other creditors.
If you have equity in real estate that is not your personal residence, you may want to look at a chapter 13 bankruptcy and discuss this situation with your lawyer. In chapter 13, there is no risk of having this property sold off.

The post Tacoma Bankruptcy Traps – A Four Part Series – Part 2 appeared first on Portland Bankruptcy Attorney | Northwest Debt Relief.


1 week 4 days ago

In this post and two others that will follow, I will be discussing twelve potential bankruptcy traps for anyone thinking about bankruptcy in the Tacoma area. Note: Most of these traps are easily avoided. Frankly, many of these traps apply to consumers nationwide, but I wrote these posts with Tacoma filers in mind. The first three traps are as follows:
1. The Cash Advance on the Credit Card
Once you opt to file for bankruptcy, it really is time to stop using credit cards. If you take out a cash advance on your credit card within seventy days before filing your bankruptcy, the Washington bankruptcy court will start from the premise that the cash advance debt will not get eliminated in your bankruptcy.
This doesn’t mean you could be stuck with all the debt on your card, just the part that was too close to your filing. The fact is though that you would not get stuck with this debt unless the credit card company actually made it an issue. The credit card companies rarely come into the Tacoma bankruptcy court to object to discharge of this part of your debt on this issue.
Like I said, if the credit card company doesn’t raise the issue, the debt still goes away. Still why even go there if you can avoid it?
If the credit card company doesn’t do this, the debt goes away with all of the others.
2. Luxury Buys
In the Tacoma Bankruptcy Court, the presumption is that if you use your credit cards to buy “luxury items” in the ninety days prior to your bankruptcy filing, the debts for these items do not get discharged in bankruptcy. You will notice that “luxury goods” is in quotation marks.
What does the Tacoma Bankruptcy Court deem a luxury item? The Bankruptcy Code doesn’t tell us exactly what constitutes a luxury item, but using your card to buy necessities like gas to get around, food for your family is not going to get yours into trouble.
Just like with cash advances, the credit card company has to actually come into the Tacoma Bankruptcy Court and file a formal objection to these specific charges being discharged in order for “luxury purchases” to become an issue. If they don’t, the debts are just eliminated.
Obviously, this is not something where you want to play the odds. If there have been purchases that you are worried about, make sure that you talk to your bankruptcy attorney about them before filing.
3. Payments to Friends and Family within 1 Year Prior to Your Bankruptcy Filing
Many potential bankruptcy filers feel awful about not being able to pay back all of their debts, particularly the debts owed to family members and close friends. Unfortunately doing so can result in costing you a good bit of money. So much for good intentions.
The issue is that under the bankruptcy code, family members and close friends are “insiders.” If you make payments on a debt to an “insider” in the year prior to your bankruptcy filing, those payments are deemed “preferences” and can be recovered by the bankruptcy trustee.
For example, let’s say you owe your sister $2000 and you have been making monthly $100 payments to your sister for the last year. As a blood relative, your sister is considered an “insider” and all of the payments you made on the debt you owe her can be recovered by the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee can literally ask your sister to turn all of that money over to them and then the trustee will take the cash and disburse it to your creditors. If she doesn’t turn over the money, the trustee sues her.
Thankfully, most bankruptcy trustees in Tacoma will give you a chance to pay the money to the trustee so that they don’t have to bother your loved one. Obviously, once you know you are filing bankruptcy, the first thing to do is stop repaying debts to “insiders.”
Stay tuned for the next installment of Tacoma bankruptcy traps.
The post Tacoma Bankruptcy Traps – A Four Part Series – Part One appeared first on Portland Bankruptcy Attorney | Northwest Debt Relief.


1 week 6 days ago

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Aaron Robertson
As New York City weighs new regulations for Uber and other ride-hail companies, a group that is often overlooked has entered the spotlight: the thousands of drivers who ferry New Yorkers across the city every day.
It is their economic despair — underscored by six driver suicides in recent months — that has prompted the City Council to consider legislation this week to cap ride-hailing vehicles in the city and set a minimum pay rate for drivers.
Both taxi and Uber drivers are optimistic that the city’s proposals would halt the flood of vehicles clogging city streets and start making it easier for drivers to earn a decent living.
“There will be more wages for the drivers and things will get better,” S.N. Singh, a taxi driver for more than 40 years, said on a recent morning as he waited at the taxi parking lot near Kennedy International Airport.
Drivers sometimes have to wait at the lot for two or three hours until they are dispatched to a terminal to pick up a passenger. They can often be found playing backgammon on trash bins, chatting in small groups or, on hotter days, napping in their cabs with the windows rolled down.
With an influx of vehicles from Uber and other ride-hail apps, drivers are having a difficult time finding passengers and traffic is slower than ever, Mr. Singh said.
“You can’t move in the city,” Mr. Singh said. “You can’t move anywhere.”
The City Council is expected to vote on the proposals on Wednesday. Uber has mounted an aggressive and highly visible campaign against the cap, but Corey Johnson, the Council speaker, believes it has enough support to pass — a stark difference from three years ago when Uber defeated an earlier cap proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The legislation would limit the number of vehicles at the current level by stopping the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses while the city studies the rapidly changing industry, which has been transformed by Uber’s remarkable rise. Ride-hail companies would be able to add new vehicles only if they are wheelchair-accessible. The legislative package, which Mr. de Blasio supports, would make New York the first major American city to impose a limit on ride-hail vehicles. The regulations could set a precedent for other cities seeking to rein in Uber.
There is “resounding support” for the cap among drivers, said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a group that represents many taxi and Uber drivers. At a recent driver meeting after the Council revived the idea, Ms. Desai said: “It was the first real moment of hope that I’ve seen at any of our meetings in the last three years.”
Her group has raised concerns about the recent driver suicides, which included three taxi drivers and were attributed in part to financial stress. Taxi medallions — the aluminum plates required for the roughly 13,500 yellow taxis in New York — once sold for more than $1 million but are now worth less than $200,000. The number of for-hire vehicles, which was 63,000 when the cap was proposed in 2015, has surged to more than 100,000 vehicles.
Mr. de Blasio defended the cap on Friday and argued that it was part of his broader efforts on income inequality.
“What’s happening across the board because of these huge corporations is they are driving down the wages of hard-working people who work in this field,” Mr. de Blasio said in a radio interview. “That alone is a reason to call a time out and assess what’s going on here.”
Taxi and Uber drivers compete on the streets for passengers, but they find common ground on the cap. Uber drivers say they also struggle to make a good living after Uber takes its commission — sometimes more than 20 percent — and after paying for high vehicle costs. With no new vehicles joining the app, Uber drivers say they will have less competition and could spend more of their day carrying passengers, instead of driving around in an empty car.
“There’s a better chance of drivers getting better trips,” said Jacky Lin, who has driven for Uber for more than a year and is part of another driver group called the Independent Drivers Guild.
Lyft, the second most popular app, has joined Uber in opposing the cap and says that nearly a quarter of its drivers could leave because of routine turnover, leading to a shortage of drivers over the next year if a cap is adopted. Lyft’s leaders say the city declined an offer from the ride-hail companies to establish a $100 million fund to help taxi drivers in exchange for dropping the cap.
“The bills as drafted didn’t really do anything to address the people who are in the most trouble right now, which are the taxi drivers with the underwater medallions,” Joseph Okpaku, a Lyft vice president, said in an interview.
Uber has sent emails to its riders urging them to oppose the cap, arguing that it would raise prices and lengthen wait times for passengers. The cap would raise rental costs for Uber drivers who lease their vehicles and create a more restrictive leasing arrangement for drivers, said Josh Gold, a spokesman for Uber. Uber supports a separate bill before the Council to set minimum driver wages.
“It boggles the mind that the Council would take action to help drivers with an earnings bill while at the same time hurt drivers who can least afford to pay higher rental costs through a cap bill,” Mr. Gold said in a statement. Uber also claims that it provides transportation alternatives to riders outside Manhattan who are ill-served by public transit or have grown tired of the constant subway meltdowns.
But Carl Dauphin, a taxi driver since 1986, said it was time for the city to finally curb Uber’s growth.
“They got to do it — they have no other choice,” Mr. Dauphin said as he waited at the Kennedy parking lot before picking up a passenger. “Their back is against the wall right now.”
The problems in the industry have reached a breaking point because many New Yorkers have become fed up with constantly congested streets, he said.
“It’s not about us no more; it’s about the people in the city,” Mr. Dauphin said. “Because when you have the city crawling with traffic, everybody’s losing.”
Yousaf Latif, another longtime taxi driver, said he has started coming to the airport lot in search of a fare because Uber had taken over Manhattan.
“We don’t have enough passengers for the yellow where we can survive and stay in the city,” Mr. Latif said.
Some drivers hope the legislation will mean a return to the better wages that they earned in the past. Anila Nargis, an Uber driver, said she earned more money last year when Uber offered better driver incentives.
“It was easier for my family,” she said, “because I don’t have to run that much and then I can spend a little more time with my kids.”
Copyright 2018 The New York Times Company.  All rights reserved.


1 week 6 days ago

By Tara Siegel Bernard
For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.
The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.
Driving the surge, the study suggests, is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.
The transfer has come in the form of, among other things, longer waits for full Social Security benefits, the replacement of employer-provided pensions with 401(k) savings plans and more out-of-pocket spending on health care. Declining incomes, whether in retirement or leading up to it, compound the challenge.
Cheryl Mcleod of Las Vegas filed for bankruptcy in January after struggling to keep up with her mortgage payments and other expenses. “I am 70, and I am working for less money than I ever did in my life,” she said. “This life stuff happens.”
As the study, from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, explains, older people whose finances are precarious have few places to turn. “When the costs of aging are off-loaded onto a population that simply does not have access to adequate resources, something has to give,” the study says, “and older Americans turn to what little is left of the social safety net — bankruptcy court.”
“You can manage O.K. until there is a little stumble,” said Deborah Thorne, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Idaho and an author of the study. “It doesn’t even take a big thing.”
The forces at work affect many Americans, but older people are often less able to weather them, according to Professor Thorne and her colleagues in the study. Finding, and keeping, one job is hard enough for an older person. Taking on another to pay unexpected bills is almost unfathomable.
Bankruptcy can offer a fresh start for people who need one, but for older Americans it “is too little too late,” the study says. “By the time they file, their wealth has vanished and they simply do not have enough years to get back on their feet.”
The data gathered by the researchers is stark. From February 2013 to November 2016, there were 3.6 bankruptcy filers per 1,000 people 65 to 74; in 1991, there were 1.2.
Not only are more older people seeking relief through bankruptcy, but they also represent a widening slice of all filers: 12.2 percent of filers are now 65 or older, up from 2.1 percent in 1991.
The jump is so pronounced, the study says, that the aging of the baby boom generation cannot explain it.
Although the actual number of older people filing for bankruptcy was relatively small — about 100,000 a year during the period in question — the researchers said it signaled that there were many more people in financial distress.
“The people who show up in bankruptcy are always the tip of the iceberg,” said Robert M. Lawless, a law professor at the University of Illinois and another author of the study.
The next generation nearing retirement age is also filing for bankruptcy in greater numbers, and the average age of filers is rising, the study found.
Given the rate of increase, Professor Thorne said, “the only explanation that makes any sense are structural shifts.”
Ms. Mcleod said she had managed to get by for a while after separating from her husband several years ago. Eventually, though, she struggled to make ends meet on her income alone, and she fell behind on her mortgage payments.
She collects a small Social Security check and works at an adult day care center for people with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems. For $8.75 an hour, she makes sure clients participate in daily activities, calms them when they are irritated and tries to understand what they need when they have trouble expressing themselves.
“When I moved here from Los Angeles, I was wondering why all of these older people were working in convenience stores and fast-food restaurants,” she said. “It’s because they don’t make enough in retirement to support themselves.”
Ms. Mcleod said she hoped that filing for bankruptcy would help her catch up on her mortgage so she could stay in her home. “I am too old to move out of here,” she said. “I am trying to stay stable.”
The bankruptcy project is a long-running effort now led by Professor Thorne; Professor Lawless; Pamela Foohey, a law professor at Indiana University; and Katherine Porter, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. The project — which is financed by their universities — collects and analyzes court records on a continuing basis and follows up with written questionnaires.
Their latest study —which was posted online on Sunday and has been submitted to an academic journal for peer review — is based on a sample of personal bankruptcy cases and questionnaires completed by 895 filers ages 19 to 92.
The questionnaire asked filers what led them to seek bankruptcy protection. Much like the broader population, people 65 and older usually cited multiple factors. About three in five said unmanageable medical expenses played a role. A little more than two-thirds cited a drop in income. Nearly three-quarters put some blame on hounding by debt collectors.
The study does not delve into those underlying factors, but separate data provides some insight. The median household led by someone 65 or older had liquid savings of $60,600 in 2016, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, whereas the bottom 25 percent of households had saved at most $3,260.
That doesn’t provide much of a financial cushion for a catastrophic health problem. Older Americans typically turn to Medicare to pay their medical bills. But gaps in coverage, high premiums and requirements that patients shoulder some costs force many lower-income beneficiaries to spend more of their own income on those bills, the Kaiser Family Foundation found.
By 2013, the average Medicare beneficiary’s out-of-pocket spending on health care consumed 41 percent of the average Social Security check, according to Kaiser, which also estimated that the figure would rise.
More people are also entering their later years carrying debt. For many of them, at least some of the debt is a mortgage — roughly 41 percent in 2016, compared with 21 percent in 1989, according to an Urban Institute analysis.
And those who are carrying debt into retirement are carrying more than members of earlier generations, an analysis by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the lowest-income households led by individuals 55 or older carry the highest debt loads relative to their income. More than 13 percent of such households face debt payments that equal more than 40 percent of their income, nearly double the percentage of such families in 1991, the employee benefit institute found.
Older Americans’ finances are also being strained by the needs of those around them.
A little more than a third of the older filers who answered the researchers’ questionnaire said that helping others, like children or older parents, had contributed to their seeking bankruptcy protection. Marc Stern, a bankruptcy lawyer in Seattle, said he had seen the phenomenon again and again.
Some parents, Mr. Stern said, had co-signed loans for $10,000 or $20,000 for adult children and suddenly could no longer afford them. “When you are living on $2,000 a month and that includes Social Security — and you have rent and savings are minuscule — it is extremely difficult to recover from something like that,” he said.
Others had co-signed their children’s student loans. “I never saw parents with student loans 20 or 30 years ago,” Mr. Stern said.
“It is not uncommon to see student loans of $100,000,” he added. “Then, you see parents who have guaranteed some of these loans. They are no longer working, and they have these student loans that are difficult if not impossible to pay or discharge in bankruptcy, and these are the kids’ loans.”
Keith Morris, chief executive of Elder Law of Michigan, which runs a legal hotline for older adults, said the prospect of bankruptcy was a regular topic for his callers.
“They worked all of their lives, and did what they were supposed to do,” he said, “and through circumstances like a late-life divorce or a death of a spouse or having to raise grandkids, have put them in a situation where they are not able to make the bills.”
For Lawrence Sedita, a 74-year-old former carpenter now living in Las Vegas, the problems began when he lost his health insurance about two years ago. He said he had been on disability since 1991, when a double pack of 12-foot drywall fell on his head at work.
After his union, the New York City District Council of Carpenters, changed the eligibility requirements for his medical, dental and prescription drug insurance, he lost his coverage.
Mr. Sedita, who has Parkinson’s disease, said his medical expenses had risen exponentially. (A spokesman for the union declined to comment.)
A medication that helps reduce the shaking — a Parkinson’s symptom — rose to $1,100 every three months from $70, Mr. Sedita said. “I haven’t taken my medicine in three months since I can’t afford it,” he added.
He said he and his wife, who has cancer, filed for bankruptcy in June after living off their credit cards for a time. Their financial difficulty, he said, “has drained everything out of me.”
Copyright 2018 The New York Times.  All rights reserved,


Pages