Weather: Chilly and rainy; high in the low 50s. Sunny, cool and breezy on Saturday. Warmer Sunday, with a chance of late showers.
Alternate-side parking: In effect today. Suspended tomorrow for Diwali.
Since the worst days of the pandemic in New York, the parts of city life the taxi industry relies on the most have yet to bounce back.
Tourists are no longer arriving in droves at airports, and foot traffic has diminished in the busiest parts of Manhattan, leaving many yellow cab drivers scouting for hours to find a fare.
To learn more about the state of ridership, and the fate of cabbies, I spoke with my colleague Brian M. Rosenthal, an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk who won a Pulitzer Prize for his exposé of New York City’s taxi industry. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:
Q. How has the pandemic deepened the crisis that New York City’s taxi drivers find themselves in?
A. The pandemic has been very hard for the taxi industry. The city is not operating at its normal level, and a lot of the things that are the most restricted right now are the things that help the taxi industry most. I’m speaking about air travel, tourism, Broadway and generally Midtown Manhattan, where taxis concentrate their work.
A lot of cabdrivers have stopped working altogether, because of the lack of customers and because of the risk of getting sick on the job.
While some industries have at least recovered a little and even Uber has significantly recovered, the taxi industry is still crippled. The most available revenue data showed that the industry was making 81 percent less money than it did a year ago. Cabdrivers are just unable to make a living at that level.
You revealed last year that thousands of cabbies were trapped in exploitative loans they couldn’t afford in order to buy a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a yellow cab. Now, as the pandemic has caused ridership to plummet, are drivers expected to keep paying off loans?
For the most part, the lenders have not required medallion owner drivers to pay during the pandemic. But that is now changing.
Some of the lenders that in the beginning were not requiring payments have now started to ask for payments. There’s a sense in the industry that lenders are increasingly going to be cracking down.
Before the virus hit, the state’s attorney general accused the city of committing fraud by artificially inflating the value of medallions. She planned to sue the city for $810 million, and then use the money to compensate drivers. Has that happened?
That lawsuit threat is on hold, much like many things in the pandemic. We have not gotten word from the attorney general about whether and when she will proceed with the lawsuit.
What other help is on the way for drivers, if any?
Some lenders are already restructuring loans, and the city has also set up a driver assistance center to help cabdrivers renegotiate.
Now there is a new proposal from the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents a lot of owner-drivers. The plan is based around a mass loan restructure, where all loans would be reset and reduced down to $125,000, with favorable terms that would allow the drivers to pay off the loan.
Lenders would have to agree to that. But in return, they would receive a guarantee from the city that if any of those loans fail, the city would step in and backstop the payments. Then the city would get protections from the lawsuit that the attorney general filed.
The proposal has gotten the support of the city comptroller, who is not only in charge of overseeing the finances of the city, but is also a leading candidate to be mayor. Presumably if he wins that race, he could implement this proposal himself.
What does the industry’s future look like?
The industry will endure and innovate. But depending on what happens in the next few months, the city could lose a generation of these hard-working immigrant drivers who are facing increasing financial distress.
From The Times
From New York Times Opinion: New York City Must Hit Pause on Indoor Dining
Want more news? Check out our full coverage.
The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.
What we’re reading
A new state law makes it easier for New Yorkers to cancel gym memberships. [Gothamist]
A Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker and three others were arrested on charges that they trafficked guns and sold them illegally. [Daily News]
The future Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was chopped down in Oneonta, N.Y. [NBC New York]
And finally: Your virtual social weekend
The Times’s Melissa Guerrero writes:
Although many performance spaces, museums and community centers are closed, people are finding creative ways to connect through virtual events and programs. Here are suggestions for maintaining a New York social life this weekend while keeping a safe distance from other people.
Good Room D.J. livestream
Celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Good Room in Brooklyn with livestreamed D.J. sets beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For the lineup, visit the Good Room’s website.
R.S.V.P. for free or with a donation on the event page.
Kitchn: Thanksgiving food festival
On Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m., participate in a two-day Instagram Live festival about Thanksgiving. Get recipes, play holiday cooking trivia games, attend cooking school sessions and more.
Reach the free event on Kitchn’s Instagram page.
Discussion: Good food and Black community ownership
Enjoy a panel discussion about the Central Brooklyn Food Co-op on Saturday at 2:10 p.m. Member-owners of the co-op will discuss its history and its vision of a healthy, local food chain that the community oversees. The discussion is a part of Weeksville Heritage Center’s event “Will Capitalism Feed Us? Nourishing an Appetite for a Cooperative World Beyond It.”
Register for the free livestream on the event page.
It’s Friday — the sun will come out tomorrow.
Metropolitan Diary: Heart-shaped cake
It was February. I was nearing the end of my first year of college and feeling a little unsteady and lost.
On Valentine’s Day weekend, I took a train from my college town to New York City. I thought that a weekend of wandering aimlessly around my favorite place would be just what I needed.
The day after Valentine’s Day, some friends and I ducked into a West Village bakery to get out of the cold. As we sat there, I noticed a gorgeous heart-shaped chocolate cake with pink frosting on display. It cost $40.
My friends and I began to joke around, saying that if we had enough money, we would buy the cake and eat it all ourselves as a little self-indulgence at a time when we felt as if we deserved something sweet.
A few minutes later, the woman behind the counter said she was dropping the price of the cake from $40 to $10.
“Who’d want to buy a heart-shaped cake the day after Valentine’s Day?” she said, flashing a mischievous smile.
We ate the entire thing that night.
— Livia Blum
We’re experimenting with the format of New York Today. What would you like to see more (or less) of? Post a comment or email us: email@example.com.