January 18, 2013
Key Chun Kim drove all night in his cab on New Year’s Eve while most New Yorkers were celebrating with friends and families. After a 12-hour shift, he dropped off his last passenger a little after 6:00 AM and was looking forward to a well-deserved rest.
But the passenger, Andrew McElroy, jumped out of the cab to avoid paying the fare. As Mr. Kim quickly opened the door to demand payment, McElroy allegedly assaulted him and beat him so badly that Mr. Kim remains in a coma in Kings County Hospital.
Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said that violence against cab drivers is an endemic problem.
“Taxi workers are 30 times more likely to be killed on the job than other workers in the country,” said Desai.
Family members of Mr. Kim were joined by Desai and fellow NYTWA cab drivers outside the hospital to demand that the District Attorney’s Office take the case before a grand jury, which it has not done more than two weeks after the assault.
Desai noted that without a grand jury indictment of felony charges, McElroy, who was freed on $10,000 bail, can only be prosecuted on misdemeanors and violations.
“Over 90 percent of criminal cases in the country are actually plea bargained. We’re out here to send a message to the district attorney’s office we do not want the case prematurely plea-bargained,” Desai said. (See video)
Desai and the cabbies also called for the reintroduction of legislation, the Taxi Driver Protection Act, that would make assaults of cab drivers a felony, similar to legislation passed by Albany for transit workers, nurses and sanitation workers. She thanked Assembly Members, Ron Kim, Ed Braunstein and Walter Mosley for their efforts to pass legislation this year. (See above video)
Abrahim Bah has been driving a cab for nine years and says he loves it, although he’s got a B.A. in accounting. He prefers being a cabbie rather than work as an accountant because his work schedule is conducive to his family’s needs and his religion—he’s Muslim and prays five times daily.
But he too has suffered insults and assaults. Two days before Christmas, a group of six men requested a ride. It’s illegal for cabbies to transport more than four passengers, but they insisted, and when Bah refused they accosted him and broke his wrist. Despite the sometimes-extreme danger and risk, Bah said he’ll be returning to work as soon as his injury heals. (See below video)