NEW YORK—The New York Taxi Workers Alliance was joined by the New York state Sen. Eric Adams and Assemblyman Rory Lancman, the sponsors of the Taxi Driver Protection Act, at a rally outside Penn. Station on Sunday.
In light of the Mar. 28 incident, in which taxi driver Mohammed Chowdhury was assaulted and slashed across the neck at 4:30 in the morning, the proponents of the new legislation demanded that assaults against taxi drivers be treated the same as assaults against the Metrapolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus or train drivers—as a felony.
Chowdhury had been off duty when two women asked him to drive them to the Bronx, while he was on his way home in Brooklyn.
“I thought, ‘How are they going to go home if I don’t take them home?’ Because on the weekend there’s no subway, or it’s a very late subway, so I took them in my cab,” he explained.
Chowdhury said that while he was driving, one of the women started urinating in the cab. He pulled over by a McDonald's restaurant and asked her to get out of the cab, as it was “not a public bathroom.” However, she opened the door and continued to urinate on the curb.
When he asked her again to use the McDonald’s restroom, the other woman threw a knife to her companion and pulled Chowdhury’s head back. The two women beat him on the head and neck with their bags and cut him across the neck.
Luckily there were two EMTs driving nearby, who rushed to the scene and stopped the women.
“It’s a miracle that I am still alive,” Chowdhury said. “At first I thought I was sweating, then I looked down on my shirt, and the whole thing was soaked red with blood. My face was burning, I was dizzy. I thought I was going to die.”
“We’ve had too many members who’ve been stabbed, choked, permanently injured, beaten by groups of people with heavy weapons. It is simply unacceptable for a workforce of over 40,000 to not know if they will come home in a body bag or a cast all for serving the public for 12-hour shifts,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
“Drivers deserve better and the state should act quickly to make it happen. Enough is enough. We demand real protection on the job.”
The bill is currently waiting for a committee hearing in both the state Assembly and Senate.
“It is a dangerous job—it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country,” Assemblyman Lancman said. “How many taxi drivers have to be attacked before we make assaulting a driver a felony?”
According to a study in 2000, taxi drivers are 60 times more likely to get killed on the job than other workers.
The bill would require every for-hire vehicle to display a notice reading, “WARNING: Assaulting a Taxi Driver is a Felony Punishable by Up to Seven Years in Prison.”
Sen. Adams noted that stricter laws have often been used against violent crimes against public agents, such as police officers and MTA drivers.
“Too many see green money when they see a yellow cab and they don’t care if it ends in red blood,” Adams said. “This bill is long overdue; it should have passed a long time ago. They work with cash, work alone and work at night—all factors that amplify risk. Justice requires that we increase deterrence.”