It was a somber scene outside New York’s City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. Four coffins sat at the foot of the steps; one by one, taxi drivers covered them with white flowers, before assembling on the steps and shouting for the city to “stop Uber’s greed” and “stop making us slaves.” It was the second such gathering in two months, as drivers and their advocates mourned another suicide that they attribute to the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. That sudden increase in the number of for-hire vehicles on the city’s streets, they claim, has made it impossible for drivers to earn a decent living.
On March 16, Nicanor Ochisor, a 65-year-old yellow cab driver, took his own life in his Queens home. According to his family and friends, he had been drowning financially as his prized taxi medallion, on which he had hoped to retire, plummeted in value. The circumstances surrounding Ochisor’s death were upsettingly familiar: In February, driver Douglas Schifter shot himself outside City Hall after posting a lengthy statement to Facebook blaming politicians for letting the streets get so saturated. According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for drivers, at least two other drivers have killed themselves since December in response to mounting financial pressures.