As the man who hands out the keys for 165 yellow cabs for a fleet company on West 44th Street, Enrique Sandoval has an interesting little take on the New York City cab scene.
Mr. Sandoval hands the keys out to drivers renting the taxis from the fleet company for 12-hour shifts, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., or vice versa. On Sunday at 5 p.m., he spread the keys on the trunk of a yellow cab parked on West 44th near Tenth Avenue.
“Twelve hours is a long time to drive, especially in Manhattan, and when the drivers finish, they’re too tired to find a parking spot,” he explained. Parking here is scarce, so as the cabs circle in and out of use, Mr. Sandoval and a partner jockey them around until the next driver takes them on the next shift. They rotate the cabs through temporary spots, whether double-parked, or stashed on the sidewalk or in the lot of the busy Hess gas station on the corner, or along the short length of curbside space designated a taxi stand.
Cabbies pulled up and handed the key to Mr. Sandoval and slouched homeward. Drivers beginning their shifts tended to be much more chipper. They shouted out the medallion number for the cab they were renting — 5Z29, 9Y40, and so on — and joked with Mr. Sandoval and tipped him a dollar or two.
“They tip me because when they finish, I park the cab for them,” said Mr. Sandoval, who often chats with the drivers
“We have mostly Arabs, Africans and Hindus, and some Latinos and Chinese,” he said. “I hear all their stories. Some are refugees, some were well-respected doctors in their countries, but here they have to drive a cab. We have one very important woman, from Somalia, who was a big government official. She was like the Hillary Clinton of Somalia, but here, she drives a cab.”
The recession has brought in more people seeking work as cabdrivers, he said.
“We’re getting more white people here now,” he said. “We get a lot of guys who are waiters and actors with no work. We have a few guys who owned their own businesses but now they have no money. They say: “We didn’t save. We threw it away.’ ”
On a Sunday night, with the holiday season ebbing, cabs were renting for as little as $55 for a 12-hour shift, he said.
“Things are a little slow, but this is still a money-making machine,” Mr. Sandoval said, banging the trunk of the cab the keys were atop — medallion number: 1Y18. “A good driver on a Friday or Saturday night can make over $300, easy,” he said. “But other nights are dead. You have to know where to go, for fares, or you’ll make $35.”