Blogs

3 months 2 weeks ago

By Erik Enquist and Matthew Flamm
Meera Joshi, CEO and chairwoman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, plans to step down from her role in March, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday. A source told Crain's Friday that Joshi had told her senior staff Tuesday of her plans to depart.
Word leaking out might have precipitated the unusual Saturday announcement, just a day after news that Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler will retire Feb. 1.

While the mayor praised Joshi in his announcement, her departure comes on the heels of their disagreement over the state's passage of congestion surcharge for taxis and for-hire vehicles in Manhattan. Joshi publicly expressed concern about the effect that the fee would have on the taxi industry, while the mayor supported the charge as a means to speed up traffic.
Joshi and City Hall also butted heads last July over implementation of a minimum-wage study for app-based drivers that the mayor’s office felt was being pushed through too quickly in light of the troubles facing yellow cab drivers. The recently passed minimum wage rule was one of her signature accomplishments.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a better commissioner at the TLC or anywhere else,” said Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer in an interview Saturday. She cited in particular the extensive trip data the TLC collects from Uber and other app-based services, which has allowed the agency to formulate groundbreaking policies for the companies.
Joshi will be leaving in the midst of a series of dramatic changes for the industry, including the minimum wage and the surcharge, which has been stalled by a lawsuit. The City Council had passed a bill establishing the minimum wage for drivers and Joshi's commission created regulations to enforce it. The chairwoman had been expected to preside over the implementation of those measures this year.
The commissioner will be the featured speaker Tuesday at a Crain's breakfast forum in Midtown. One advocacy group for taxis called the timing of her pending departure "concerning." Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said, "The crisis for New York City drivers is far from over and the Taxi and Limousine Commission's work to fix it is just beginning."
Since Uber's rise in 2014, the yellow-cab industry has been wracked by an 80% decline in the value of medallions, the metal placards that each taxi must have to operate. Joshi has been trying to stabilize the industry, which has also been devastated by eight driver suicides within the past year and a half.

"Commissioner Joshi’s tenure was marked by such progressive innovations as the protection and enhancement of driver earnings, citywide access to for-hire services for persons with disabilities, a 50% reduction of fatalities in crashes involving taxis and for-hire vehicles in the last year, [and] significant advances in consumer protections," the mayor's press release Saturday said.
It also credited her with creating the first "pathway to the effective management of congestion and environmental impact relating to TLC-licensed services."

"In this unprecedented period of growth, Meera has brought about equally unprecedented and vital change that will serve as a model for cities throughout the nation and the world," de Blasio said in the statement. "Under her leadership New Yorkers who use wheelchairs can get service, passengers are assured that every driver and vehicle is safe, our city has detailed records of the 1 million daily trips and New York City is the only place where app drivers have pay protection. She will leave an unparalleled legacy and has raised the bar for good government. I am grateful for her service."

In the release, Joshi thanked "a skilled and principled TLC staff, a commission dedicated to doing the right thing and engaged industry members and advocates, through public debate and data we increased accountability, safety, access, modernized taxi regulation, protected drivers and increased consumer protections."
No successor has been chosen, City Hall said, promising a decision "in the coming months."
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3 months 3 weeks ago

Here’s a New Year’s resolution to consider:  Get rid of your car.  Your life — and your fiscal health — could improve significantly.  Also, the planet will thank you.
It sounds drastic, but  — if you really think it through — it may not be as crazy as it seems.  In fact, I’ve done it for the past year.  It can be done.  It’s way more feasible than you think.
Getting to work:  Remember there is public transportation.  Let somebody else do the driving.  Take advantage of that time for yourself.  Read.  And make use of technology to get work done:  Use your cell phone to answer emails, review documents, whatever.
Continue reading


4 months 2 days ago

By Jake Offenhartz

A New York judge has temporarily blocked a state congestion pricing surcharge that would have added a $2.50 fee to yellow cabs and some for-hire vehicles in order to help fund the subways.

The fee was slated to begin on New Year's Day, and would've targeted trips that touch a designated "congestion zone" below 96th Street in Manhattan. On Thursday night, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Martin Shulman issued a temporary injunction so the court could review a last-minute lawsuit filed by cab drivers opposed to the fee. A hearing is scheduled for January 3rd.

The fee was approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature in March, after the broader push for congestion pricing failed once again. From the start, critics of the legislation have argued that the piecemeal approach would unfairly target already-struggling taxi drivers, while letting private motorists off the hook for their role in clogging the streets. "We are pleased Albany's sham of a congestion tax is now temporarily suspended," said Independent Drivers Guild spokesperson Moira Mintz in a statement.

According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, cab drivers could lose up to $15,000 a year in income under the legislation. In frequent rallies in Albany and outside City Hall, they've dubbed the fee a "suicide surcharge," in reference to the string of financially devastated drivers who've taken their own lives over the last year. Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Josi, who is named in the lawsuit, admitted last month that the fee was "potentially devastating" for yellow cab drivers, whose fares already include a $2.50 pick-up fee and 80-cent accessibility and mass transit charge.

The fee was expected to bring in about $400 million a year for the MTA, at least some of which had been earmarked for the Subway Action Plan. In a statement to Gothamist, Patrick Muncie, a spokesperson for Cuomo, said: “The state plans to vigorously defend the law, which was approved by the legislature and will generate hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the subway and help ensure New Yorkers have a safe, reliable transportation system."

This week, the governor vowed to implement a comprehensive congestion pricing proposal during his first 100 days in office. Driver advocates, including the NYTWA, have said that yellow cabs should be exempted from any congestion pricing plan, because it would "make survival—let alone a raise—impossible for drivers."

Uber, meanwhile, has supported the fee, spending around $100,000 on lobbying efforts, according to the NYTWA. As written, the legislation would charge only a 75 cent fee when a group ride is requested through one of the app-based services, even if the trip isn't matched with a second passenger. A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment on the ruling.

The lawsuit names the state, the city and the Taxi and Limousine Commission as defendants. Many of the plaintiffs are family members and close friends of drivers who've committed suicide, including the brother of Kenny Chow, who took his own life in May after racking up $700,000 in debt on his medallion. A total of eight for-hire drivers have committed suicide in the last 13 months.

"We know the fight is long from over, but we feel relieved and encouraged that a judge is telling the Governor to listen to our suffering," said NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. "There is a real crisis here. And Governor Cuomo has the power to help drivers instead of adding an additional crushing burden on a workforce already facing financial despair."

© 2003-2018 WNYC. All rights reserved.


4 months 5 days ago

FILING BANKRUPTCY WHILE IN A DIVORCE CAN BE A TRAP
divorce and bankruptcyLost? Never guess at which way to go because there could be hungry lions waiting around the corner.
Whenever a divorce and bankruptcy come into play it is very complicated to determine which should be filed or completed before starting the other legal process.  Even attorneys make mistakes.  In the In re Kiley case the debtor’s failure to understand the law will lead to the loss of over $100,000 that may have been protected if the timing was done differently.
In re Kiley, 15-27838 (Bankr. D. Utah Dec. 4, 2018) (The Utah Supreme Court revoked certification in this case because the issues were not adequately briefed and because of the potential impact of the automatic stay on the property settlement at issue in this case.)
Bankruptcy court’s decision: As a result, the Court finds that other than the Support Payments of $113,777.78, the balance of the Divorce Award was a property settlement (the “Property Settlement”). Further, because the Debtor acquired, or became entitled to acquire, the Property Settlement within 180
days of her bankruptcy filing, it became property of the bankruptcy estate under § 541(a)(5)(B). 
Section 522(b)(3)(A) allows exemptions under state law “applicable on the date of the filing of the petition.”62 The parties agree that on the petition date, the Debtor was not an “Alternate Payee under a QDRO.”63 It was only after the bankruptcy filing that the Divorce Court entered the QDRO defining the Debtor as Alternate Payee.64 Therefore, because the Debtor was not an alternate payee on the petition date, the Court finds that she did not qualify for an exemption under U.C.A. § 78B-5-505(1)(a)(xv). 
The court orders the turnover of certain funds to the bankruptcy trustee.

The moral to this story is never file bankruptcy without understanding the hundreds of rules that pertain to your unique situation.

The post FILING BANKRUPTCY WHILE IN A DIVORCE CAN BE A TRAP appeared first on Diane L. Drain - Phoenix Bankruptcy & Foreclosure Attorney.


4 months 6 days ago

By Janet Burns

For almost a decade, ride-hail platforms like Uber and Lyft have cornered a service consumers demand: the ability to book rides through an app. In response, professional taxis have increasingly turned to similar platforms to help bring their industry and customer pool up to speed.These include apps like MyTaxi, Cabify, and Taxi.EU, plus dozens of worker-run platform cooperatives serving passengers around the nation and world. 

Here in the ride-hail revolution's home country, one of the most popular taxi apps is Curb, designed to let users hail licensed cabs and Access-A-Rides, book flat-rate or per-mile rides in advance, and pay for ongoing taxi rides.

Focused on major metropolitan areas for now, Curb has participating fleets in 65 US cities so far, accessible by Android and iOS, and plans to expand. It's operated by Curb Mobility, which provides payment and backseat entertainment services (previously as Way2Ride) to fleets in New York City and nationwide.

Unlike Uber, Lyft, Via, Gett, and Juno, which connect users to those tech firms' pools of privately recruited and vetted drivers, Curb works with cities' extant official services to link riders with available taxis and Access-A-Rides in their area — something cab companies (and Uber itself) could and probably should have done a decade ago.

By phone, Curb's vice president of mobile Jason Gross said that the ability to hail, pre-book, and pay for rides through an app is something drivers and riders have requested for years.

For most individual fleets or cities, however, it's been a huge struggle to launch and promote apps that can compete with transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, whose explicit focus and expertise is technology, not human transport.

"The taxi industry began as a 'Wild West' a century ago, and we're seeing [riders and drivers] go through exactly the same problems again," Gross said. "Ironically, the fastest way to get a vehicle is many cases is still to walk outside."

While taxi dispatches and app orders account for some of professional drivers' fares, Gross explained, the bulk come from being at the right place at the right time.

The result is that drivers — whether in radio-linked yellow cabs, or algorithm-and-GPS-led private vehicles — will inevitably try to position themselves where they believe the best fares are likely to be: places like airports, southern Manhattan, and other bustling zones.

Another result, Gross said, is that the important issue of denial of service to different communities is often conflated with drivers' efforts to position themselves for trip requests. "If there's a belief that there are more trips with higher fares in Manhattan, drivers will congregate in Manhattan," he said.

"It’s a little disingenuous to say that the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) was not addressing underserved areas. And the idea that we're at over 100,000 professional drivers since the [TNC boom], and don't have enough vehicles to serve five boroughs? That's not true either."

Getting drivers to where they're needed (and avoiding pile-ups where they're not) is a tricky issue to solve, particularly without a system-wide strategy and preferably real-time data on demand. For their part, TNCs have left the decision of where to cruise around up to the individual drivers.

New York's TLC, meanwhile, attempted to improve service outside of Manhattan several years ago with the introduction of 'boro cabs,' or green cabs, which are licensed to pick up street hails in those areas where yellow cabs are seldom seen, and black cars have traditionally filled in.

The TLC stopped issuing green cab medallions this year due to ongoing competition from TNCs, but thousands of those vehicles are still on the road, and ready to hail or book via Curb. "People wanted those licenses, to do that work," Gross said.

Gross said that mounting financial pressures and street traffic have highlighted how much NYC's yellow and green cab drivers, black car drivers, and even TNC drivers have in common, from everyday struggles to high personal stakes. "Going back several years, taxis and black car companies saw themselves in a fight to the death, but since the advent of ride-hails, we're seeing a lot more cooperation."

For example, today's NYC's taxi and livery or 'black car' drivers both rely on fares from the publicly subsidized Access-A-Ride program in order to get by after years of competing with TNCs like Uber, which subsidize their sub-market-rate rides with billions of dollars from investors.

According to Gross, Curb plans to extend its network to include more livery fleets next year, while NYC pilot programs have sought to bring Uber and Lyft drivers into this accessibility network for New Yorkers. Just this week, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams hailed the pilot program as a way of helping close the transportation gap for NYC students with physical disabilities.

"It's the first time we've been part of the paratransit program, which our API helps coordinate. We take a lot of pride in of the work we're doing, connecting the disabled community and knowledgeable drivers with clearly marked and often pre-equipped cars, who won't be forced [into legal] arbitration if there's a medical issue."

"The program provides hundreds of thousands of trips each month, and we take in their overflow, which is thousands of rides a month," Gross said. "Numerous drivers have told me, 'I would have turned in my license if not for the work provided through Access-A-Ride.'"
For riders accustomed to Uber and Lyft, Curb's pricing system might come as a bit of a surprise: not including Curb's $2 booking fee, the price of a ride may well be higher than TNCs' estimates during their slow times, or well lower than TNCs during "surge pricing."

According to a recent report on taxi and ride-hail services in the Raleigh, NC area, for example, taxi cabs average a flat $46.70 for trips from the city's downtown to Raleigh-Durham International Airport; at 11 p.m. on a weekday, Uber and Lyft might provide the trip for a little more than $20, but on a Saturday night, it would cost between $50 and $60 (not including tip). 

Prices for vehicles booked through Curb will most likely be higher than Uber's more often than not, however. That's because taxi rates have been calculated and set to cover the costs of labor, insurance, local fees, safety measures, and even oversight for fleets.

Uber and Lyft's prices, on the other hand, have generally stayed comfortably below what it actually costs for an adult person to pick up and drive another person from Point A to Point B, all things considered — seemingly a key part of their plan to put robots behind the wheel.

"We're not a VC-backed company, so we're trying to focus where we can make a difference," Gross said. "That means providing an experience with all the benefits of participating in the regulated industry, but with the level of service and quality that customers demand."

"Regulation is not a bad thing. It can be subject to overreach, but it should be allowed to exist, and to be creative in the ways it solves problems," he continued.

"At the end of the day, we're all stakeholders in the community. New York is also really serving as a model for cities around the country for the right level at which to regulate, and how to solve problems."
 
Going forward, Gross said, "We need to be finding out how to utilize the resources we have, and decide to become more efficient in how we provide transportation."

He added, "I think we can do better."

©2018 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


4 months 1 week ago

Recent tough economic times have made it difficult for many people to meet their financial obligations. However, debt should not be the end of the road for debtors. The law provides different alternatives to allow people to pay what they owe while they build a new financial beginning. Bankruptcy has been a powerful tool to […]
The post How Often Can You File for Bankruptcy in California? appeared first on The Bankruptcy Group, P.C..


4 months 1 week ago

The November 2018 New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) sales results have been released to the public. And as is our practice, provided below are Jim Shenwick’s comments about those sales results.
1. The volume of transfers rose again from October. In November, there were 154 unrestricted taxi medallion sales.
2. However, almost all those transfers were bankruptcy and foreclosure transfers!
3. 50 of the 154 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).
4. And in an unprecedented development, 93 of the sales (60%) were sales of medallions in bankruptcy proceedings.  As these sales are constrained by debtors’ and trustees’ need to liquidate distressed assets, we also disregard these transfers in our analysis.
5. The large volume of foreclosure and bankruptcy sales (approximately 93%) is in our opinion evidence of the continued weakness in the taxi medallion market.
6. The eleven regular sales for consideration ranged from a low of $140,000 (one medallion) to $175,000 (two medallions), $180,000 (seven medallions) and a high of $320,000 (one medallion).  
7.  The fact that 93% of all transfers in November 2018 were either the result of bankruptcy filings or foreclosure sales shows continued weakness in the taxi medallion market and no sign of a correction.
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.


4 months 2 weeks ago

Every year, thousands of people get the financial start they want through bankruptcy. Despite what many people believe, bankruptcy has been vital in the economic recovery of debtors around the country for many years. However, what happens after your discharge? Can you apply for a credit card after you have finalized your bankruptcy? Our Roseville […]
The post How Long After a Bankruptcy Can I Get a Credit Card in California? appeared first on The Bankruptcy Group, P.C..


4 months 2 weeks ago

IRS Tax Tip 2018-186
Don’t take the bait: Here’s how taxpayers can avoid getting caught by a phishing scam
Data thieves don’t take a break during the holidays. In fact, the IRS warns taxpayers that the agency is seeing a large increase in bogus email schemes that seek to steal money or tax data.
thiefThe most common way for cybercriminals to steal money, bank account information, passwords, credit cards and Social Security numbers is to simply ask for them. Every day, people fall victim to phishing scams or phone scams that cost them their time and their cash.
Here are a few steps taxpayers can take to protect against phishing and other email scams. When reading emails, people should:

  • Be vigilant and skeptical. Never open a link or attachment from an unknown or suspicious source. Even if the email is from a known source, the recipient should approach with caution. Cybercrooks are good at acting like trusted businesses, friends and family. This even includes the IRS and others in the tax business.
  • Double check the email address. Thieves may have compromised a friend’s email address. They might also be spoofing the address with a slight change in text. For example, using narne@example.com  instead of name@example.com.  Merely changing the “m” to an “r” and “n” can trick people.
  • Remember that the IRS doesn’t initiate spontaneous contact with taxpayers by email to ask for personal or financial information. This includes asking for information via text messages and social media channels. The IRS does not call taxpayers with aggressive threats of lawsuits or arrests.
  • Not click on hyperlinks in suspicious emails. When in doubt, users should not use hyperlinks and go directly to the source’s main web page. They should also remember that no legitimate business or organization will ask for sensitive financial information by email.
  • Use security software to protect against malware and viruses found in phishing emails. Some security software can help identity suspicious websites that are used by cybercriminals.
  • Use strong passwords to protect online accounts. Experts recommend the use of a passphrase, instead of a password, use a minimum of 10 digits, including letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when offered. Two-factor authentication means that in addition to entering a username and password, the user must enter a security code This code is usually sent as a text to the user’s mobile phone. Even if a thief manages to steal usernames and passwords, it’s unlikely the crook would also have a victim’s phone.
  • Report phishing scams. Taxpayers can forward suspicious emails to phishing@irs.gov.

More information:
Taxes. Security. Together
Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers
Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself
Tax Security 101 series.

Share this tip on social media — #IRSTaxTip: Don’t take the bait: Here’s how taxpayers can avoid getting caught by a phishing scam. https://go.usa.gov/xPFuf

The post Thieves Steal Identity and Money – IRS warning appeared first on Diane L. Drain - Phoenix Bankruptcy & Foreclosure Attorney.


4 months 3 weeks ago

More and more retirees are filing for bankruptcy due to several reasons. Disappearing benefits, rising medical costs, planning inadequately, increasing caretaker expenses, and declining income are a few of the major causes. More seniors are not only filing for bankruptcy, but they also are representing a larger percentage of filers. In 1991, only 2% of bankruptcy filers were 65 years or older. Now, more than 12% of bankruptcy filers are seniors, up 10% in less than thirty years.
The post More Retirees Are Filing for Bankruptcy appeared first on Tucson Bankruptcy Attorney.


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