A New York taxi driver was found dead in an apparent suicide over an investment debt that allowed him to operate a cab.
Yu Mein Chow, 56, took out a loan in 2011 to purchase a $700,000 medallion, a once-coveted permit designed to limit the number of taxi drivers.
Also known as Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience (CPNC), medallions were once touted as “the best investment in America.” Those in New York are especially valuable, peaking at over $1 million.
Chow took out the mortgage with Melrose Credit Union and initially listed the medallion itself as collateral. He then refinanced in 2016, putting all his properties as collateral, the New York Post reported.
However, the rise of Uber and other ride-sharing services resulted to a cutthroat competition that ultimately led to a drop in medallion prices. They now sell for as low as $175,000, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Cab drivers have been calling for reforms to protect their livelihood. Some have been driving for 14 hours a day to cover losses.
Chow, whose body was found floating in the East River, is the fifth driver to die in a row of apparent suicides. He leaves behind a wife battling stage 4 colon cancer and a daughter with two years left in college.
It was last year when he started to realize that his investment was not paying off. He could not afford his wife’s treatment and his daughter’s tuition.
Speaking to The New York Times, Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said that Chow attempted to make a payment on his loan before he went missing on May 11. His body was found on May 23.
Chow, also known as “Kenny,” immigrated to the United States as a young man. He first worked at a jewelry store before venturing into the taxi business.
In the wake of his demise, his brother, Richard, set up a GoFundMe page to help his family. The campaign seeks $100,000 and has pulled in $5,000 on the first day.
Richard, who spoke at a vigil on Sunday, wrote:
“Kenny, as husband, father, son, brother, and friend was just like many New Yorkers: an immigrant with dreams who unconditionally loved his family, and worked hard every day. Kenny at the end faced financial and other hardships he was not able to control, and we are asking for help for the family Kenny left behind.
“Kenny left behind a family that loved him and counted on him, and the hardships remain to be solved. The financial stress directly caused by the yellow cab business Kenny worked tirelessly for the last 10 years, indirectly, caused other hardships for Kenny and his family. Kenny was a determined and a loving person, and memories of Kenny remain with us.”
He added, “As Kenny’s surviving spouse fights her stage 4 cancer, Kenny’s daughter pursues her college degree with two years remaining. Kenny was the sole breadwinner for the family. The Chow family will get back on their feet, and we mourn the loss of Kenny Chow.
“The funds raised will show Kenny’s family, and the world, that help is available — to any of us — in times of unimaginable hardship. The Chow family will be forever grateful for any help you are able to provide. Thank you and God Bless!”
Readers who feel so inclined may donate to Kenny Chow’s family here.
Featured Image via GoFundMe / Remembering NYC Cabbie Kenny Chow