Tragedy struck the cabby community for the fourth time last week since November, when 65-year-old Nicanor Ochisor hung himself in his Queens home. His suicide, like those of his three predecessors, was the culmination of the continuous drop in value of his taxi medallion, which he owned with the intention of financing his home and retirement. Over the last five years, the value of his medallion had fallen to just around $180,000 from a whopping $1 million.
Outside City Hall was the scene of one of the other cabby suicides last month, when longtime black-car driver Doug Schifter’s financial woes pushed him to shoot himself. Danilo Castillo, was one of two other livery cab drivers to commit suicide in recent months. Castillo made a point to scribe his suicide note on the back of a summons from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s executive director Bhairavi Desai told The Post, “We’ve seen this building over the past three years in particular. The financial crisis is crushing enough, but it’s the political silence that’s destroying people.”
With no regulations to limit the number of for-hire cars circulating within the city, the number has grown to approximately 100,000, of which an ironic estimated 66,666 are Uber drivers. Meanwhile the city has capped the number of yellow cabs allowed at 13,587. This double standard has sent ridership plunging for the yellow taxis. According to the TLC, in 2014, the taxis did around 475,000 fares each day, and now the number has plummeted to less than half that with only 175,000 to 250,000 fares per day,
Spokesman for TLC Allan Fromberg said, “Very clearly, there is less work to go around. [Taxi driver] earnings have taken a hit.”
According to the Alliance, from 2013 to 2016, full-time day cab drivers experienced a 23 percent decrease in their annual earnings from $45,529 to $35,344.
Desai explained that cabbies who have their own medallions, usually financed through a bank, have an average monthly expense of between $6,000 and $9,000, compared with Uber and Lyft drivers who only need pay a onetime TLC license fee of $550. This has left the many cabbies, who are mainly immigrants with little alternative career options, in financial ruin seeking bankruptcy or even worse outs, like suicide.
The Post was told by a bankruptcy attorney, “For every 40 bankruptcy cases, I now see two or three cabbies. That’s a significant number of filings — all in the last two years. Guys walk into the TLC to return their medallions in tears.”