Pandemic compounds financial, emotional distress for NYC cab drivers

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NEW YORK — At 66 years old, Dalip Singh could lose everything he’s worked for.

In 79 days, his home could be repossessed if he and his family don’t come up with $250,000.

“The home is most important. If I don’t have a home, where am I gonna go? Where they can go? It’s very sad,” said Singh.

Singh started driving a yellow cab in October 1987. and loved it. In the good days, he brought home hundreds of dollars a day. Now, it is down to a mere $20 to $50 in his pockets if he’s lucky.

Singh said the purchase of a taxi cab medallion in 1998 for $250,000 with an interest rate of 12% is what did him in. Initially, payments were not an issue, until ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber came into the market.

Sales plummeted by an estimated 80% for taxis across the five boroughs, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Add to that an unexpected global pandemic and cab drivers are barely staying afloat.

“Our city is so out of touch with people like us. They don’t realize we’re suffering at the hands of corrupt systems that are not working,” said Singh’s daughter, Felicia.

NYC profited off of the sale of medallions, the cost ranging from hundreds of thousands to more than a million dollars at one point in time.

The debt crisis is serious enough that in 2018, a string of suicides in the industry suddenly propelled action. There was finally momentum and discussion over debt relief for struggling cabbies, but then again there was silence.

“I feel like they completely forgot about all of us,” said Mohamadou Aliyu, an NYC medallion owner and driver for more than 15 years.

Mohamadou Aliyu is originally from the Ivory Coast and has driven a cab for more than 15 years. Today, as a medallion owner and driver, he’s in deep debt and trying to make ends meet for his four children and wife.

“There is no day I don’t think about committing suicide, because I’m coming from so far away to get this close to get out of poverty and I’ve been robbed. My life has been taken away from me,” said Aliyu.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance is urging city government to do more, as it once promised. Their plan asks the city to backstop medallion loans restructured to $125,000. It would cost the city $75 million over 20 years.

If you or someone you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, click here for resources.

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