There have been four suicides in New York’s ride-for-hire industry in four months: livery drivers Danilo Corporan Castillo and Alfredo Perez, black car driver Douglas Schifter and, most recently Nicanor Ochisor of Queens. Ochisor who together with his wife owned and drove his own yellow cab was found dead, hanging from the rafters of his home garage in Queens on March 16. The driver-owner had planned on paying off his medallion and leasing it as a means of retirement but medallion prices have plummeted from $1 million in 2014 to less than $200,000 today.
In response to the spate of deaths, advocates are calling on lawmakers to curb the unregulated growth of rideshare companies, which they say are making it near impossible for drivers to earn a living. A glut of new Uber and Lyft cars on New York roads in recent years, coupled with the companies’ predatory pricing models, has put a strain on both rideshare drivers and those behind the wheel of yellow and black cars.
On March 28, members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) rallied at City Hall. Among their demands: A cap on the number of rideshare vehicles, a minimum fare rate (similar to a minimum wage), and the establishment of a drivers’ health and retirement fund. NYTWA also opposes plans to fund the subway through congestion pricing in Midtown Manhattan, pointing out that the number of traditional cabs is already capped and that surcharges on taxi rides have contributed nearly a billion dollars to the Metropolitan Transit Authority since 2009. Drivers and their allies plan on rallying again at City Hall on April 25.
Meanwhile, Nicanor Ochisor’s friends and family have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help his widow retire.
Photo Credit: Erin Sheridan.