A body pulled from in the East River last week was identified as a despondent, financially troubled cabbie who vanished earlier this month.
Kenny Chow, 56, showed signs of depression in recent weeks as he struggled to earn enough cash to pay off a $700,000 loan on his taxi medallion, relatives said.
“We are in mourning today,” his brother and fellow cab driver Richard Chow said Saturday.
“My brother lost hope as many other medallion owners looking for justice and fairness have.”
Kenny Chow was last seen inside his yellow cab on E. 86th St. and East End Ave. on May 11.
For weeks, Chow’s family feared the worst when they couldn’t find the man who was forced to work longer hours for less pay amid the rise of Uber and other car-hailing apps.
Adding to his woes, Chow’s wife was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in October, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
The couple has a 21-year-old daughter.
The search for Chow came to a grim end on Wednesday morning when a decomposed body was spotted floating in the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge.
Cops plucked the corpse from the water near Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights about 9:30 a.m.
The body was unrecognizable, requiring his family to supply the Medical Examiner with dental records in order to confirm the identity.
Chow’s cause of death wasn’t clear. The Medical Examiner’s Office did not return a request for comment Saturday.
But his family and colleagues expressed little doubt that Chow took his own life.
“Kenny’s family described him as a devoted father and husband who worked hard to provide for his loved ones,” said Taxi Workers Alliance executive director Bhairavi Desai.
“Kenny’s income plummeted in the last five years even as he worked increasingly grueling 14-hour-plus shifts desperate to make ends meet.”
Chow’s death comes amid a spate of taxi driver suicides.
At least four cabbies have taken their lives since December, according to the Taxi Workers Alliance.
Taxi advocates blame City Hall for allowing ride-hailing apps to take over the city leaving yellow cab drivers fending for scraps.
“Make no mistake: The crisis that took Kenny’s life and the lives of four other drivers pushed to suicide in recent months was entirely preventable,” Desai said.
Chow’s brother called on the city to take action in order to prevent the next taxi driver tragedy.
“NYC has to act as soon as possible on bringing fairness and a level playing field to the taxi industry before other medallion owners gets so depressed so that, out of desperation, they take their own life,” he said.
Sixth New York City cab driver dies of suicide after struggling financially
A Yemeni immigrant is the sixth driver to die of suicide in the past eight months, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
A sixth New York City taxi cab driver took his own life on Friday night, the latest in a string of driver suicides that has shaken the industry and brought attention to its economic hardships.
Abduel Saleh, 59, is a Yemeni immigrant and the sixth driver to die of suicide in the past eight months, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA).
Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of NYTWA, said that Saleh had been out of work for two weeks. He and his driving partner Qamar Chaudhary had turned in their taxi cab after splitting night and day shifts that went as long as 12 hours for seven years, she said. Chaudhary’s cousin had offered him an opportunity to drive with Uber, and Chaudhary offered Saleh a similar opportunity, Desai explained.
Mr. Saleh still wanted to drive a yellow cab, so he was deciding what to do,” she said. “But even before then he was falling behind on the lease. He was behind as much as $300 on the last week that he worked.”
Saleh’s friends said that he tended to work the airport and hotel lines in hopes of picking up fares, a strategy that has seen fewer and fewer of returns in recent years because of ride-sharing services, Desai said.
he added that cab and livery drivers do not have retirement to fall back on and would only suffer greater poverty if they turned to Uber or Lyft.
“He drove for over half his life,” Desai said. “This is what he knew. This was his job. This is how he knew to earn a living for himself and his family overseas in Yemen. Your days are spent hearing about your family in the middle of such a devastating war and then you having little means to financially support them to relocate them.”
Chaudhary told the New York Post that Saleh “sounded upset and depressed.”
“I know he wasn’t making enough money to pay his lease,” Chaudhary added. “He was short here and there, and I used to have to help him out. He said he didn’t know how to survive.”
The NYTWA plans to have a press conference outside of New York City’s city hall on Monday to address Saleh’s death and the economic hardship they say drivers currently face.
Many cab drivers work more than a dozen hours a day, seven days a week, yet are left cash-strapped after paying off car and taxi medallion loans, according to the NYTWA.
One problem that many in the industry point to is a glut of drivers, as ride-share companies such as Lyft and Uber increased the number of cars in the road.
Five other New York City livery and cab drivers experiencing economic hardship have taken their own lives in recent months, most notably Douglas Schifter who killed himself on the steps of city hall. Schifter said that the ride-share companies were contributing to the financial strain that led him to such drastic measures, according to a manifesto he wrote on Facebook.
“We’re just so angry,” said Desai. “We’re really angry that we now have gone to six funerals.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
Uber applies for patent to spot drunken passengers
The technology could spot changes in walking speed, user typos, and swaying motions
Popular taxi app Uber has applied for a patent to use artificial intelligence to determine how drunk a potential passenger may be.
According to the company’s application, made to the US patent office, the new technology would allow them to spot “uncharacteristic user activity” by monitoring customers’ activity as they use the Uber app. These variables could include: walking speed, unusual spelling errors made while typing on the app, the angle at which a potential passenger holds the phone and whether the phone is moving in an abnormal way.
Thought the patent application does not explicitly refer to identifying drunk or otherwise inebriated passengers – it uses terms such as ‘predicting user state using machine learning” and “uncharacteristic user states” – The Guardian points out that vetting intoxicated passengers is the most likely application for a system built to spot typos or unusual swaying motions.
The patent application suggests various ways that Uber may tailor their service if a user is seen to be exhibiting “uncharacteristic user activity”. For example, they may be directed to a well-lit pickup point, or they may be matched with a driver trained to deal with drunk passengers. Uber also suggest that intoxicated passengers may be prevented from “pooling” with other app users.
Many critics have suggested that Uber’s new proposed system may allow drivers to exploit intoxicated passengers. The company has seen several serious data breaches over the last few years, and in 2014 came under criticism for its use of the controversial ‘God View’ software program. The software allowed the company to monitor real-time locations of customers and drivers. In 2016, the company’s former forensic investigator Samuel Ward Spangenberg concluded that the software was abused by employees who used it to track ex-partners and celebrities.
In a statement, Uber said: “We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers. We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features.”
from NME website
New York City Uber Driver Has License Suspended After Kicking Out 2 Kissing Women
An Uber driver who booted two kissing women out of his car had his livery license suspended on Tuesday.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which licenses about 180,000 drivers of car services and yellow cabs, called his behavior “ridiculous.”
“It’s 2018 in New York City, and this isn’t the way we live anymore,” commission spokesman Allen Fromberg said.
The women, Alex Iovine and Emma Pichl, a couple in their 20s, were on their way from Brooklyn to Manhattan on Saturday when they exchanged what they called a “peck” on the lips. They said driver Ahmad El Boutari, who’s 35 and lives in Brooklyn, forced them out and a confrontation ensued.
A cellphone video taken by Pichl shows the driver saying that kissing in an Uber is illegal.
“You can’t do this in the car,” the driver says.
“Kissing is not illegal,” one of the women responds. “Why are we not allowed to kiss in an Uber?”
“It’s disrespectful,” the driver says.
Fromberg noted that the city does not regulate behavior in Uber cars and similar services. But he called what the driver did to the women “an unacceptable and repugnant act that will not be tolerated.”
The Taxi and Limousine Commission is investigating.
Uber has behavior rules amounting to, basically, no sex in cars. But Iovine and Pichl said they were doing no such thing.
El Boutari told the Daily News that the women played loud music on their phones and one put her feet on the seat.
But Iovine said that was not true.
“We would never try to upset someone in their own car,” she said by telephone.
Then, “after we had peck-kissed, sitting on opposite sides of the back seat and not even touching, I saw him looking at me in the rearview mirror,” she said. “He was very angry.”
She said they were in lower Manhattan when the driver pulled over, opened a rear door and ordered them to “get out of my car.”
During the altercation, when Pichl started recording the scene, “he grabbed Emma’s arm to try to get her to stop,” Iovine said. “It was kind of a scary experience.”
Uber, which is based in San Francisco, has removed El Boutari’s access to its app, saying it does not tolerate discrimination. It said it is investigating.
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