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Pandemic Pushes N.Y.C. Cabbies to the Brink: ‘I Can’t Hold On’

Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk, the head of the city Taxi and Limousine Commission, which oversees yellow cabs and ride-hailing companies, said the industry was steadily recovering, albeit slowly. “The pandemic hit for-hire transportation hard, but every month since March has seen increases in trips across all segments,” she said.

Still, drivers of both yellow cabs and the green cabs that operate outside of Manhattan have been reluctant to return to work. In September, an average of 3,257 yellow cabs and 575 green cabs operated each day, according to city data. In both cases, that was about 70 percent lower than in September 2019.

Several fleet owners said they had called drivers to beg them to return. Some offered discounts letting drivers rent out cabs for half the normal rate, or less. Recently, they said, drivers have begun returning.

Drivers who own their own cabs have returned even more slowly.

“My job isn’t safe. I don’t know who has had the Covid, and there are no customers anyway,” said Andrew Chen, 53, an immigrant from Burma, now Myanmar, who has owned his own cab since 2006. “So I just stay home.”

Now, a knockout punch may be coming for those drivers, who bought the city permits called medallions that allow them to own and operate a cab.

As The New York Times has reported, hundreds of drivers were already squeezed before the pandemic after being channeled into large, exploitative loans they could not afford in order to buy their medallion. Lenders suspended collections for months during the worst of the virus, but some have started to demand payments.

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