2018-03-28 / Front Page

Astoria Cabbie Cries, ‘No One Cares’

By Liz Goff
A Queens yellow dab driver who hanged himself in the garage of his Maspeth home on March 17th was the first medallion owner to take his life because he faced financial ruin he blamed on Uber and Lyft, taxi union officials said.

Police said Nicanor Ochisor, 65, was found by his son, hanging from a wooden beam in the garage on 58th Road and 69th Lane in Maspeth.

Officials at the Taxi Medallion Owner and Driver Association issued a statement blaming the suicide on the large number of drivers working at for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft, who take money from the pockets of medallion drivers. “He could no longer bear the strain of the impending loss of everything he had worked for in his life in America,” officials said in the statement.

A devastated Astoria medallion owner told the Gazette that there are currently more than 100,000 for-hire vehicles on the streets of New York City, operated by drivers from the Uber and Lyft apps. “And the city caps the number of medallion cabs at 13,587,” the cabbie said. “This city is killing the futures of people who invested their savings into a job that promised them a future, while our mayor and politicians do nothing to even the playing field. It’s like the horrors of 1929 have come back to haunt the people who trusted their life savings to this city, and no one cares.”

Union officials said that medallions were selling for more than $1 million in 2014, but their value has now plunged to about $175,000.

Ochisor purchased his medallion in 1989, and shared driving his cab with his wife, sources said. He financed his home mortgage with his medallion, and had planned to use the license to finance his retirement by leasing it out for $3,000 a month. “Right now he would be lucky to get $1,200 a month,” union officials said.

Ochisor drove the taxi from the afternoon to midnight, and his wife took over during the morning, union officials said. “They worked that way for more than 25 years, while they raised their family and put money in their children’s college fund.”

Ochisor, like other medallion cabbies, had suffered financially since Uber came to the city, union officials said. “Medallion cabbies are making about $200 a day, working 10 to 12 hours.”

Union officials said Ochisor was devastated by his financial situation. The family home was about to go into foreclosure, and it was apparent that his devalued medallion wouldn’t save the home.

Ochisor is the fourth taxi driver and the first medallion owner to take his life since December, with one driver posting a message on Facebook. “I don’t know how else to try to make a difference other than a public display of a most private affair,” livery driver Douglas Schifter wrote before killing himself with a shotgun outside City Hall on February 5.

Union officials said they have been begging Mayor Bill deBlasio and the Taxi & Limousine Commission to take action on the crisis, but have received only lip service. “There are far too many for-hire vehicles on the streets,” officials said. 

 

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