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Why Are Taxi Drivers in New York Killing Themselves?

A taxi driving force named Roy Kim not too long ago changed into the 8th skilled driving force to die via suicide in New York during the last 12 months.

The town’s taxi commissioner, Meera Joshi, has characterised the deaths as a pandemic. The tales have drawn consideration to the financial melancholy in the trade and precipitated the City Council to weigh new law to lend a hand taxi homeowners cut back their debt and to extend driving force wages.

Each case is other and it’s tough to understand why any individual makes a decision to take their existence. Most of the drivers had been immigrants in their 50s and 60s, a few of whom had informed family and friends that they had been having a troublesome time creating wealth as Uber started to dominate the ride-hailing trade.

Three of the drivers owned a taxi medallion — the aluminum plate required to power a cab in New York that after bought for greater than $1 million. It is now price as low as $200,000.

Here’s what we find out about Mr. Kim and the wider disaster:

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CreditNew York Taxi and Limousine Commission

Mr. Kim was once a 58-year-old Korean immigrant who lived in Queens. He had pushed a taxi for greater than 4 years and purchased a medallion final 12 months for approximately $578,000 — an instance he celebrated via having a sushi dinner with a driving force he met years in the past whilst looking forward to passengers at Kennedy International Airport.

But Mr. Kim had complained to buddies this 12 months that he may just no longer in finding fares. He started operating extra ceaselessly, sooner or later using seven days every week. Still, his buddies had been shocked via his dying.

“There’s no other reason but the financial aspect,” mentioned Kyung Ryong Kang, a pal and fellow driving force who had celebrated at dinner with him final 12 months. “It was harder and harder to survive.”

On Nov. five, Mr. Kim was once discovered striking via a belt from the entrance to his bed room, the police mentioned. He had an grownup son who lives in South Korea. Friends were not able to succeed in Mr. Kim’s son.

A bunch of drivers not too long ago held a vigil at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens to keep in mind him. Mr. Kang mentioned he misses seeing Mr. Kim on the airport taxi lot.

“He was a generous person and always bought coffee for us,” he mentioned.

Two different drivers who took their lives additionally owned taxi medallions: Nicanor Ochisor, who was once from Romania, and Kenny Chow, who was once from Burma. Both informed buddies they had been apprehensive about paying off their debt.

In February, a black-car driving force named Douglas Schifter killed himself with a shotgun in entrance of City Hall. He had written on Facebook that Uber had flooded the streets with cars and complained about having to paintings 100 hours every week to live on.

Drivers for Uber and different automobile services and products have additionally raised considerations about low wages. The different drivers who died via suicide had been: Fausto Luna, an Uber driving force; Abdul Saleh, a taxi driving force who had leased his automobile; Danilo Castillo, a livery driving force; and Alfredo Perez, a livery driving force.

“This tragedy underscores the importance of finding new ways for government, the industry and lenders to work in unity to address the financial challenges that are weighing so heavily on our licensees,” Ms. Joshi mentioned in a commentary after Mr. Kim’s dying.

In August, the City Council licensed a cap on Uber and different ride-hail cars — the primary main American town to take action. The Council is thinking about a separate set of expenses that may identify a well being fund for drivers and create “driver assistance centers” to provide psychological well being counseling and monetary recommendation.

Corey Johnson, the Council speaker, mentioned town was once additionally having a look at choices to lend a hand medallion homeowners saddled with large debt, from a partial bailout to a hardship fund. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a gaggle that represents drivers, is urging town to paintings with banks and philanthropic teams to put in writing off 20 p.c of taxi homeowners’ remarkable debt.

At the vigil for Mr. Kim, the crowd’s chief Bhairavi Desai had a message for taxi drivers who’re suffering: The town is in any case addressing the issue and issues will recuperate quickly.

“We know change is coming,” she mentioned.

After Mr. Ochisor’s dying, his circle of relatives raised greater than $30,000 to lend a hand repay his medallion. An nameless donor additionally contacted his son Gabriel Ochisor, in need of to lend a hand longtime drivers like his father. The donor despatched him a batch of cash orders, each and every price $1,000, to ship to 217 homeowners who purchased their medallion earlier than 1990 and nonetheless power their taxi.

Mr. Ochisor is attempting to succeed in the entire drivers to mail the presents, which can be despatched with a letter from the donor.

“Please know that your 3 decades (or more!) of service are appreciated and that my life has been made better by your having worked the streets,” the letter says.

If you might be having ideas of suicide, name the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or cross to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/assets for a listing of extra assets. Here’s what you’ll be able to do when a liked one is critically depressed.

Sangsuk Sylvia Kang contributed reporting.

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