NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A livery cab drivers’ group held a vigil Tuesday after a driver committed suicide outside City Hall a day earlier.
On Monday, Douglas Schifter, 62, shot and killed himself while in a car near the east gate of City Hall Park, according to police sources and the Independent Drivers Guild.
Police sources said the black-car livery driver left a note and a post on Facebook expressing his frustration with licensing, competition and ride-sharing services such as Uber. Police sources said he was financially distraught.
Quoting the suicide note, the New York Daily News reported Schifter blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the problems in the industry.
“They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead,” Schifter’s note was quoted in the newspaper.
The paper reported that Schifter wrote in his note that he had worked 100 to 120 consecutive hours a week for 14 years or more, while he averaged only 40 to 50 hour when the industry started in 1981. He wrote that he could not survive with working 120 hours, the paper reported.
The Independent Drivers Guild held a vigil honoring Schifter’s memory at a vigil at City Hall Tuesday evening.
In a statement, the guild said: “This isn’t the first person who has lost their life because of this industry, and we’re pleading with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and State elected officials to help us make it the last.”
The Taxi and Limousine Commission also issued a statement mourning Schifter’s loss and expressing concerns with the effects of changes in the industry.
“As we have frequently acknowledged, with 50,000 more drivers and the same number of additional vehicles over the last four years, there is a clear oversaturation of the for-hire market. We understand that many of our licensees have been under tremendous pressure due to this onslaught of competition from app-dispatched services. While the passenger ‘pie’ has grown, this growth is finite,” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said in the statement.
Joshi continued in the statement: “The despair felt so deeply by Mr. Schifter has become a topic of daily debate and concern for us at the TLC, and while we lack the jurisdiction to limit the licensing of drivers or vehicles, we are tackling the issue of driver earnings protections this year. Mr. Schifter’s words have resonated deeply with us, and I suspect with many others on the various levels of the industries we regulate. We mourn his loss.”