” wait for the vaccine ! “Like many New Yorkers, Richard Chow is eager to return to work. This American native of Burma, is a driver of yellow cab, these vehicles mythical that make up the picture of the Big Apple in the world. 62 years old and suffering from heart problems and diabetes, he preferred to lift the foot to avoid contracting the virus, even if the drivers of the “yellow cabs” are part of “essential workers” hard at work since the beginning of the confinement in march. “I’m part of at-risk populations. If I get sick, I’m dead, ” says this father of a family, a few steps from his taxi parked in the Chinatown area of Manhattan.

Even if he had been in top form, Richard Chow would have been very difficult to earn a living in the New York of today. With orders of the containment be maintained at least until may 28, there are more of them in the streets to flag down taxis. They have largely disappeared from the landscape since the beginning of the health crisis. The number of trips has declined by 94 % between early march and 4 may, from 506 000 to 28 500, according to the manager of the largest fleet of taxis. Vehicles that are still on the road, participating in a program of meal delivery put in place by the city to allow drivers to pass this difficult period. “The taxis who continue to work are between 50 and $ 70 per day, once you remove the price of gasoline,” says Richard Chow. The game is not worth the candle. I don’t want to lose the life, and my family can not lose me. “

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I went to the american dream in the nightmare american.

The pandemic occurs at the most inopportune time for drivers already in a fragile situation. A large number of them became heavily indebted in order to acquire their license (medallion), the price of which has soared to a million dollars in the year 2000. Synonym of stable income, the license has been touted as the key to the american dream with this labor of immigrants. But with the competition of the VTC, Uber and Lyft, the drivers experienced it more difficult to repay their loans. Richard Chow knows : fifteen years after buying its license, it must still 400 000 dollars to the banks. Two years ago, his brother, Kenny, who also led a yellow cab, was one of the drivers who died by suicide, strangled by the pressure of financial and psychological.

“I went to the american dream in the nightmare us,” says Richard Chow, who said, “having a broken heart” by the disappearance of his little brother, that he was encouraged to become a driver. The two men, who have three other brothers and five sisters, came together in New York in 1987 in search of opportunities and have held jobs of the drivers before driving yellow cabs.


Since he has stopped work on 14 march, Richard Chow, and affects approximately $ 800 a week in unemployment benefits. His family lives on the salary of his wife, an employee at the post office. As long as the crisis will last, it is not required to repay its loans, but it tightens the belt. “I buy the cheaper products when I do shopping, he said. I feel the pressure of having to return to work : how to pay off my debts ? And I have to pay for the education of my two children… ”

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The return to work will not be done without fear. It has identified at least 50 drivers of yellow taxis that have died, the Covid-19. Fortunately, his taxi is equipped with a partition between the front and rear seats, which will reduce the contact with the passengers. It is also equipped with masks, gloves and hydroalcoholic gel. “When the city of New York will re-open, many people will not want to take the public transport and rabattront on taxis. Conversely, there will be a lot more unemployed and private companies. And there are taxi drivers who want to do something else, he states. It is not necessary to count on a return to normal before next year. “The normal, to Richard Chow, is working seven days a week, in the hope that the City one day decides to intervene to pay off the debts of their taxis yellow. “I am 62 years old. No one else will hire me, he smiles behind his mask. I can’t do anything else. “

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