At one corner of 86th Street and Manhattan's East End Avenue on Sunday, three posters hung on a lamppost about a block from the East River for a missing man.
There the police found the man parked taxi, the biggest investment of his life. The man, Yu My Chow, had taken out a loan seven years ago to buy a $ 700,000 medallion that gave him the right to taxi. Chow, 56, who lived in Queens and was nicknamed "Kenny", disappeared on May 11. His body was found Wednesday in the East River, about nine miles south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Friends and family believe Mr. Chow has jumped to his death, resulting in a series of apparent suicides by traditional taxi and paint job drivers in the city. It was the fifth suicide in just over five months. The coroner has not yet determined a cause of death.
New York taxi industry, depending on market value of the once coveted taxi medallions, was overturned by the proliferation of Uber and other passenger services. The drivers called for changes in the town hall to make a living, but at least five taxi drivers have been trapped under the burden of debt since December while others blame working 12- and 14-hour shifts to make up for lost income. A driver shot himself in front of City Hall in February after leaving a message on Facebook accusing the industry of its demise to politicians.
On Sunday, Richard Chow, Mr. Chow's older brother, took to the streets where the police took the cab as part of a picket line that attracted scores of drivers and taxi drivers on a bleak afternoon. He climbed the stone steps of the nearby Carl Schurz Park and headed for the iron fence on an esplanade overlooking the river. "I loved my brother, he worked very hard, he loved his family," Chow managed to say before his voice broke and his eyes twitched. "That's all I want to say."
The medallion system was created to limit the number of taxi drivers, but rally apps have rendered it useless, said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of [New York City Taxi Workers] Alliance. Last year, data showed that more people used Uber than yellow taxis in the city. The taxi medallions, which have been sold for over a million dollars, are now sold for just $ 175,000, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Desai said she had been turned into a part-time advisor to downed drivers calling them early in the morning, and a part-time eulogist talking to family and friends to share the stories of the deceased.
Born in Burma, Yu My chow did not start taxiing right away when he moved to the United States as a young man. He became a jeweler, said Mrs. Desai.
When the business he was working on closed down, she said, "He had to reinvent himself, then he started driving a taxi."
Mr. Chow bought a medallion in 2011 when Uber was working in New York City. Last year, Mr. Chow realized that his $ 700,000 investment did not pay off. He could not afford the college education of his daughter. He could not afford the medical bills after his wife was diagnosed with cancer, Ms. Desai said. Desai said that Mr. Chow made a payment on his medallion loan a few days before his disappearance. His credit card was declined.
On Sunday, mourners tended their heads three times to honor their friend. Richard Chow grabbed a red flower and a white flower and headed for the iron fence that separated the city from the troubled waters of the East River. More people followed, and together they threw flowers in the river.
Behind them, new posters hung on a pole read: "Rest in peace, beloved father, husband, brother, friend, New York taxi driver."