Cabbie Protest

Marla Diamond/WCBS 880

Yellow Taxi Drivers Demand Cap On For-Hire Vehicles In NYC

June 18, 2018 - 9:24 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Five years ago, individual taxi medallions were valued at $1 million, but the wave of ride-sharing services has sent the value plummeting.

Drivers are losing their life savings and their hope, says Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. 

Facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt on their once high-priced medallions, six yellow taxi drivers have committed suicide in the past eight months.

The latest driver to take his own life is 59-year-old Abdul Saleh. His roommate says the Yemeni immigrant worked 12-hour days, seven days a week and could not afford to pay his share of the rent.

The alarming number of suicides has the group representing cabbies urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to renew his push for a cap on the number of for-hire vehicles on the streets of the city.

At a morning rally on lower Broadway, cabbies shouted the names of their six drivers who recently took their own lives.

"They're not anonymous, they were New Yorkers and we should never forget them,"said U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat

"No more drivers lost, no more waiting for regulation. Our crisis can be fixed. We need regulation now," Desai said. "All that we are asking for is to put a limit on the number of vehicles that are crowding the streets."

Desai is urging the City Council to pass a series of bills that would help taxi drivers make a living wage. Cabbies are vowing to hold daily protests outside City Hall gates until the bills are passed.

"In 22 years of my organizing, I have never had to change the answering machine from my office to leave a suicide prevention hotline number. I feel sick to my stomach that I had to do that," Desai said.

There are 13,000 yellow cabs on city streets, compared with 70,000 Uber vehicles.

De Blasio famously lost a bid to cap the number of Uber vehicles in the city three years ago.

Uber bitterly fought back the last time around at one point adding the word "de Blasio" to its app that when touched would made all the cars on the map vanish.