Loved ones and fellow taxi drivers gathered on the Upper East Side Sunday to mourn the cabby whose body was found in the East River last week after he apparently took his own life — as new details emerged about the financial hardships that helped push him to the brink.
About 40 mourners bearing flowers and candles assembled for a prayer vigil at East 86th Street and East End Avenue, the intersection where Yu Mein “Kenny” Chow’s taxi was found abandoned May 12.
The 56-year-old Queens man’s body was found near the Brooklyn Bridge off Brooklyn Heights Wednesday but was not identified until Saturday.
In his final days, Chow was plagued by sleepless nights “because of a lot of stress, not making money, his wife was sick, he was very depressed,” said his older brother and fellow cabdriver, Richard.
In addition to his wife Li Xian’s battle with Stage 4 colon cancer, Kenny Chow was facing a deepening financial hole that began in 2011 when he took out a $700,000 mortgage with Melrose Credit Union to buy his taxi medallion, loved ones said.
Chow bought the medallion when rates were at an all-time high, but he quickly found himself struggling to make payments as the rise of ride-sharing services drastically transformed the industry’s landscape in the city.
When Chow initially dealt with Melrose Credit Union, he only had to list the medallion itself as collateral, according to loan documents obtained by The Post.
By 2016, he refinanced with the credit union, this time putting up everything he owned as collateral, including his home, industry sources said.
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“Melrose Credit Union is looking out for itself while putting these drivers at great risk,” one source said.
Melrose Credit Union was taken over by the government last year and placed in a conservatorship under the National Credit Union Administration due to “unsafe and unsound” practices.
It had also financed Nicanor Ochisor, a yellow-cab driver who hanged himself in March due to financial strain.
Five cabbies, including Chow, have committed suicide since December 2017, with at least four citing dire straits plaguing the industry.
Melrose Credit Union and the National Credit Union Administration did not respond to requests for comment.
At Sunday afternoon’s vigil, some blamed Melrose Credit Union, some blamed ride-sharing companies and some blamed Mayor de Blasio, whose Gracie Mansion was just blocks away.
“It’s a tragedy,” said driver Bigu Haider, 53. “This never used to happen before.”
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