Coronavirus has slammed the brakes on the Big Apple taxi industry.
New York City cabbies are suffering a radical drop in ridership amid concerns over the potentially deadly bug, with some only scraping together a few bucks after long shifts behind the wheel.
“We don’t make money,” said Queens cabbie Jones Donkoi while trying to land fares on the Upper West Side. “I collected $300 in fares but if you take the taxes and surcharges and lease payment, I make about $40 at the end of a 12-hour shift.”
“I support three children,” he said. “I’m going to find another job because I can’t continue like this. I can’t buy anything.”
Driver Mohammad Azad said it’s so bad out there that he had just $10 in his pocket after his first three hours on the road on Sunday.
“Our pockets are empty,” said Azad, who was near Spring Street in SoHo Sunday. “If it continues like this, it will be very hard to survive in New York City. All taxi drivers are miserable. Am I scared? Yes. But we take the risks.”
Another driver said he took home just $50 one day last week, and at one point drove around two hours without a single fare.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said the cabbie, who would only identify himself as Patrick. “I am driving around hoping to get a passenger and there are none. They are too scared.”
One cabbie said his family has had to cut down on food spending and even stopped buying laundry detergent to try to get by.
Taxi garages throughout the city told The Post that business has dropped by 30–50 percent as fewer tourists hit the city and more locals stay indoors to avoid contact with the COVID-19 virus.
And cabbies are feeling the squeeze.
“It’s really dire out there,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “Trips dry up after evening hours and with significant loss of airport trips, only small fares remain.”
A chunk of the fares they collect go toward paying off their pricey taxi medallions or, in some cases, the weekly lease payments to garages that rent them their cabs.
“Tomorrow I will ask if my garage can lower the rate to rent the cabs,” said Brooklyn cabbie Abdallah Abdujabar. “Every week I pay $600 plus gas, EZ Pass. It adds up to $800, $900.”
Then there are fees that come out of the fares, including a $2.50 state congestion surcharge and a 30-cent city surcharge.
According to taxi garage owners and dispatchers, the crunch is having a ripple effect on the industry.
Garages that rent out the cabs rely on the drivers’ lease payments to pay off their medallions, and without that money coming, some owners said they risk defaulting on bank loans they took out to make their medallion payments.
“My drivers work a 12-hour shift and they’re not even making the money to pay the lease on the car,” said Mahbub Hassan, a dispatcher at Yellow Cab Crescent Management in Long Island City. “In four hours, they’re lucky to get three rides.”
“We have 268 cabs in our fleet, and 100 of those cars are just sitting there without drivers,” Hassan said. “We have been giving our drivers $200, $300 discounts on the lease, and drivers are still not making enough to cover the lease payment.”
Added a manager at Midtown Operating Corp: “At the end of the day, we are all in the same boat along with the rest of the city. My pockets are not that deep.”
Meanwhile, drivers said they also have to live with the fear that they’re exposing themselves to the virus while trying to make a living.
“They give me three hand sanitizers per shift,” driver Muhammad Boote, a cabbie for 12 years, said of his bosses at Queens Medallion Leasing in Long Island City. “I’ve almost run out. I need to ask for more.”
Additional reporting by Anabel Sosa and Khristina Narizhnaya
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