September 11 Digital Archive

Nearly 350 yellow cab drivers attend NYTWA hearing


Nearly 350 yellow cab drivers attend NYTWA hearing



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Taxi drivers confronted representatives of government agencies and charities, charging that drivers

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Nearly 350 yellow cab drivers attend NYTWA hearing

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Gloria Suhasini

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Desi Talk

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Taxi drivers confronted representatives of government agencies and charities, charging that drivers have been left out of September 11th relief efforts.

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A cabdriver is like a lonely animal, said a disheartened James Gant. Nobody wants to listen to us. This was the sentiment echoed by at least 10 other drivers who spoke at a public hearing organized by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance on March 26. But the reaction of representatives of federal agencies was mixedsympathy and criticismfor drivers who did not seek help by contacting relief agencies.
The common grievance of the drivers was that through October 11 they were still required to make payments on the medallion and cab lease, even though they suffered a loss of income.
Javid Akthar broke down when he said that after running away from the Twin Towers as debris fell on him, he had not been offered any assistance. I ran to Battery Park and then walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to reach home. He said he did not receive any assistance, despite being a direct victim of the attacks.
We cannot do anything unless you make that one phone call to us to ask if you are eligible. If you dont call us, we dont know you need help, Mary Elem Martinet of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told the audience. She said the relief organizations received as few as three applications from drivers.
Nearly 350 yellow cab drivers attended the hearing held at Hunter College, according to Biju Mathew, one of the organizers.

Half a dozen representatives from government agencies, including FEMA, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), and the Department of Labor, and advocacy and charity groups like the Unemployment Project, United Services Group and Safe Horizon also participated in the event.
Martinet's reaction to the complaints of drivers representing NYTWAs more than 3,000 members that they have been unfairly denied any federal aid. Several of the drivers who spoke at the hearing said they had not applied for any aid because their friends had told them it was a waste of time and we are not eligible.

Chaumtoli Huq, staff attorney of NYTWA, told Desi Talk, just through me, at least 30 drivers applied for relief and I also helped several other fill in the forms, so I dont see a tally here.

Mmamnun Ul Huq, a cab driver, said that he did apply for FEMA relief, but was denied assistance since he did not have a business in downtown Manhattan. He said though cab drivers live in different boroughs of the city, or even as far away, as New Jersey, their prime business was in Manhattan, dropping off passengers at the financial district or tourists visiting the World Trade Center site.
Ishrat Zaidi, a member of the organizing committee of the alliance who also spoke at the event endorsed this statement, saying Everything from the business district to airports to hotels and tourism has been affected, and that means yellow cab drivers lost business on every account. He said it was unfair that the airline industry gets billions of dollars in aid and so do other related industries like the hotel industry, while the agencies turned a blind eye to cab drivers.

The Department of Labor was also criticized for not aiding the drivers who claimed lost business in the aftermath of September 11th. (Labor) laws are outdated, discrimination prevails and you have also been denied interim rule (for unemployment assistance), said Jonathan Rosen, representing the Unemployment Project. He noted that lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, have been urged to rewrite the unemployment assistance rules.
The drivers also said they faced hardship due to declining income, high lease rates, and the fear of racial harassment.

People dont take my cab anymore, said Surinder Singh Walia, a Sikh. They think Im a terrorist because I wear a turban and have a long beard. He said it was becoming harder day after day, with diminishing income and fewer people hiring his cab.

Dorothy Le Conte, the only woman driver to speak t the even and the mother of a four-year-old boy, drew out a certificate presented by the TLC in appreciation of free service into downtown Manhattan during the troubled time soon after the terrorist attacks. She said, however, This [acknowledgement] is not enough. When I went to FEMA, they said, we dont know where you are from.
We call ourselves business people but we are forced to work like slaves, LeConte added. The owner-driver said that there was no help for any agency in terms of relief and still she had to follow TLC regulations such as buying a new car at the end of five years, and paying high interest rates and insurance.

Yellow cab drivers have been systematically denied assistance and refused opportunities to apply for recovery assistance, said Bharavi Desai, NYTWA staff coordinator.
She told Desi Talk that she was glad to see that the government agencies, for the first time, took notice of the fact that cab drivers were impacted by the events of September 11th and were direct victims of the terror attacks. I hope they did not think this was a venting session. They heard us and our proposal. Now we hope that they go back to their supervisors and convey our concerns. Now we wait for them to put their money where their mouth is.

Allan Fromberg, deputy commissioner of the TLC, who also attended the event, told Desi Talk that he heard the concerns of the drivers and could empathize with them. But we have our hands full with what we have to do and have been doing. He indicated that TLC may not be able to do anything in terms of relief for yellow cab drivers.

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“Nearly 350 yellow cab drivers attend NYTWA hearing,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed March 21, 2023,