A Queens cabbie who drove a yellow taxi for three decades hanged himself in his garage after suffering massive financial woes in the era of Uber, officials and friends said Wednesday.
Nicanor Ochisor, 65, was found hanging from a wooden beam in his garage on 58th Road near 69th Lane in Maspeth Friday morning, police said.
Taxi advocates quickly blamed the Romanian immigrant’s suicide on the glut of drivers working for app-driven, for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft taking money from medallion drivers.
“He could no longer bear the strain of the impending loss of everything he had worked for in his life in America,” the Taxi Medallion Owner and Driver Association said in a statement.
The organization pointed out that in 2014, medallions were selling for more than $1 million. Now, the value has dropped to about $175,000.
The group said Ochisor is the fourth cab driver, and first medallion owner, to take his own life over the last few months.
“We have been begging the mayor and the Taxi and Limousine Commission to act, and all we have gotten is either lip service or meaningless gestures that don’t get to the root of the problem: There are way too many cars on the streets,” taxi industry group spokesman Nino Hervias said.
TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said the agency was “deeply distressed” by Ochisor’s death.
“To all that he has left behind, his family, friends and his brothers and sisters in the industry, our heartfelt condolences — we mourn with you,” Joshi said.
Ochisor had his medallion for nearly 30 years after purchasing it in 1989, officials said. He never rented out his medallion, but shared the driving duties with his wife, longtime friend Dan Nitescu said.
“His wife was driving in the morning, he was driving in the afternoon to midnight,” said Nitescu, 64. “Since Uber came to town … the whole taxi business was almost destroyed. The medallion value went to almost zero.”
As the price of a taxi medallion continued to tumble, Ochisor “got into a deep depression,” Nitescu said.
“He was telling me all the time that the value of the medallion is not going to be like it used to be anymore, ever,” he said. “Now, he told me, for the last six, seven months that whatever he makes together with his wife, he was making by himself alone, before the Uber.
“He’s gotta pay his mortgage on the medallion,” Nitescu added. “He was making the payments, but it was very hard. He struggled himself. It was bothering him all the time.”
Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx) has proposed a bill that would more tightly regulate the online for-hire industry.
The bill would establish an annual $2,000 fee on each vehicle, and any new services would have to do an environmental study. It would cap the number of vehicles per base at 250. Currently any Uber driver can respond to a call from any Uber base.