By Sadef Ali Kully
When David Bechor, a Queens Village resident, invested in a yellow-taxi medallion many years ago, it was a major investment in a secure future for him and his family.
Bechor had plans to renovate his home for his wife and maybe put something aside for a rainy day. He never expected to be in the midst of a fight for his future.
Last month, Uber and the city fought publicly over a proposal to limit the number of Uber vehicles in the city. They then struck an agreement under which the city said it would not limit the number of Uber vehicles while an environmental impact traffic study was conducted. That study is expected to be completed near the end of the year.
Meanwhile, yellow-taxi medallion owners and drivers created an association, the Taxi Driver-Owner Association, an important step for the association’s founder, Jaswant Singh and Sohan Gill.
“My father is a owner-driver for 30 years—he worked hard and put us through college,” said Aman Deep, Singh’s son and a spokesman for the group.
Deep said medallion owners are not just large mafioso-like millionaire groups.
“There are individual owners like my family. We just want to work and live simple lives,” he said “We want to show people we are regular people. For us, this is our food.”
The Taxi Driver-Owner Association said Uber, the for-hire vehicle e-service used through smart devices, is hurting their business and the group wants a cap on Uber vehicles as well as a ban on e-hailing a vehicle. They claim that a metered ride in any form, on a phone or a device, should be reserved for yellow and green taxis supplied by the city according to a 1937 city ordinance.
The $50 billion company, Uber has grown dramatically since its arrival in the city, going from nearly non-existent to employing over 25,000 drivers in just four years. In Queens, Uber said there are an estimated 8,000 Uber driver-partners who call the borough home and there are plans to create more than 4,000 job opportunities by the end of the year for Queens residents alone.
Out of the city’s 13,000 taxis there are about 6,000 independent medallion owners, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Medallion owners say the price of their medallions has dropped dramatically. From a peak of over $1 million a couple years ago, that price has fallen to less than $800,000 this year.
For Bechor, who came to this country as an immigrant from the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union, it is worrisome.
“I thought if I worked hard—I would get a chance,” he said. Bechor owns a mini-fleet, which means two yellow taxi medallions, both of which are losing value. He has also had both of his taxis sitting in garages rather than moving on the streets. “I have no drivers to come in because there is no money.”
“I just want a level playing field. I don’t care about Uber coming—I believe in healthy competition,” Bechor said. “That is what I came to this country for – back home you couldn’t stand in a line without being pushed away. I thought it was going to be different here. Where is the balance here?”