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NEW YORK — Richard Chow discovered his younger brother’s taxi abandoned outside Carl Schurz Park, a 15-acre Manhattan oasis overlooking the East River. He began to panic.

纽约——理查德·周(Richard Chow)发现弟弟的出租车被遗弃在卡尔·舒尔茨公园外。他开始紧张起来。

For months, he had watched his brother and fellow cabdriver, Kenny, struggle under enormous debt. Kenny had grown distant and despondent. Now he had disappeared.
几个月来,他眼睁睁地看着弟弟肯尼,一名出租车司机,因为巨额债务而挣扎,沮丧,疏远家人,最后失踪。


Richard searched the taxi and then the park, scouring around the gardens, the playgrounds and a bronze statue of Peter Pan. Finally, he called the police.

在找到弟弟的出租车后,理查德先在出租车里搜寻了一遍,然后进入公园,在花园、游乐场和彼得·潘的铜像周围寻找。一无所获
最后,他报了警。



An economic crisis has swept over New York City’s taxi industry, spreading financial ruin and personal despair, especially for owners of medallions, the permits that let people operate cabs.

目前,一场经济危机席卷了纽约市的出租车行业,不断有人破产,人们绝望的情绪在不断的蔓延,尤其是那些获得出租车驾驶牌照——也就是出租车营运许可证的司机当中,悲观的情绪尤甚。

More than 4,000 drivers have used their life savings to buy medallions. Richard and Kenny were among them.

在纽约,有超过4000名出租车司机用毕生积蓄购买了营运许可证。理查德和肯尼也在其中。

For more than a decade, as The New York Times has reported this year, taxi industry leaders artificially inflated medallion prices and channeled purchasers into exploitative loans that they could not afford. The medallion bubble began to collapse in late 2014. Prices plummeted. But the drivers remained stuck with massive loans.

正如《纽约时报》今年报道的那样,十几年来,出租车行业的领导者,人为地抬高了营运许可证的购买价格,并且有意引导购买者背负无力偿还的剥削性贷款。
虽然出租车营运许可证的泡沫在2014年底开始破裂,价格暴跌。但这些购买了许可证的出租车司机仍然背负着巨额贷款。

Thousands of owners, almost all born outside the United States, have lost all of their savings. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy. And several have died by suicide.

这些成千上万的营运许可证持有者几乎都是在美国境外出生的,他们为了购买执照失去了所有积蓄。现在,已有超过950人申请破产。多人自杀身亡。



The family moved to Taiwan in 1980. The brothers got jobs at the same factory, dyeing wool for sweaters. They saved most of their earnings, but occasionally they splurged on a trip to the movies to see the latest American action film.

理查德全家于1980年搬到台湾。兄弟俩进入同一家毛衣印染厂工作。他们把大部分收入存起来,不过偶尔也会挥霍一下,去看最新的美国动作片。

Eventually, they pursued their own American adventure. After an older sister married a Taiwanese American, they got green cards.

最终,他们要去美国冒险了。在一个姐姐嫁给一个台裔美国人后,他们得到了绿卡。

“We wanted to go to United States because we heard it was the best place,” another brother, Jojo, said in an interview. “We heard about it in movies, in books. We dreamed of going there.”

“我们想去美国,因为我们听说那里是最好的地方,”理查德另一个兄弟乔乔(Jojo)在接受采访时说。“我们从电影和书里认识的美国。我们梦想去美国。”

One night in late September 1987, several of the siblings boarded the last flight of the day from Taipei to New York. Richard and Kenny sat next to each other.

1987年9月下旬的一个晚上,几个兄弟姐妹登上当天从台北到纽约的最后一班飞机。理查德和肯尼坐在一起。

When the Chows landed at Kennedy Airport, they did not speak any English.

当飞机在肯尼迪机场降落时,周家人一句英语也不会说。

At first, the siblings lived with their mother in a two-bedroom apartment in Chinatown. Soon, they forged their own paths. Jojo moved to California. A sister moved to Philadelphia.

起初,兄弟姊妹和母亲一起住在唐人街的一套两居室公寓里。很快,他们找到了各自的出路。乔乔搬到了加利福尼亚。一个姊妹搬到了费城

But for years, Kenny followed Richard.

但是那么多年来,肯尼一直跟着理查德。

They began as restaurant deliverymen, fighting the rain and snow to deliver Chinese food. Then they joined the jewelry business, as diamond setters.

他们一开始给饭店当送餐员,冒着雨雪送中餐。然后他们进入珠宝行业,做钻石镶嵌。

“I’m the older brother,” Richard said in an interview. “He looking at me. It’s Chinese tradition. The older brother takes care of young brother.”

“我是哥哥,”理查德在接受采访时说。“我要照顾他。这是中国的传统。哥哥要照顾弟弟。”

The older brother entered the taxi industry first, too. He started driving for a fleet in 2005, after a friend suggested it. He liked the job, but he hated waking before sunrise for his shift. So the next year, when the city sold medallions at auctions, he bid.

率先进入出租车行业的也是哥哥。2005年,在朋友的建议下,理查德开始为一个出租车公司开车。他喜欢这个工作,但他讨厌在天不亮就得起床上早班。因此,第二年纽约开始拍卖出租车营运执照时,他参加了竞拍。



By then, medallion prices were skyrocketing. Large fleet owners like Freidman were intentionally overpaying for medallions to increase the value of their portfolios. Lenders were issuing reckless loans, and as in the housing bubble, the easy money inflated prices more.

那时,营运执照价格飞涨。像弗莱德曼这样的大出租车公司,老板为了增加自己的投资价值,故意炒高营运执照的价格。放贷人不计后果地发放贷款,就像在房地产泡沫时一样,宽松的贷款使得营运执照价格进一步膨胀。

The younger brother could not secure a conventional loan. But he later told friends that a broker helped him to leverage the equity in his house for a down payment to make it work.

肯尼无法获得常规贷款。但他后来告诉朋友,一位经纪人帮他利用房产抵押贷款付了首付,解决了这个问题。

Kenny bought his medallion at a private sale on Aug. 5, 2011. It was only a few years after his brother’s purchase. But including the taxes and fees, it cost more than $750,000.

2011年8月5日,肯尼在一次私下拍卖中买下了他的营运执照。虽然离哥哥买到营运执照没过几年,但是包括税费在内,肯尼花了超过了75万美元。

After his loan hit the four-year mark, when he was supposed to repay everything, the nonprofit Melrose Credit unx called and offered to extend his loan and lend him an additional $150,000. He agreed. He said he used the money to repay the family who had covered his down payment. Melrose issued the check in less than an hour, he added.

当贷款达到四年期限,他应该偿还所有债务时,非营利组织梅尔罗斯信用合作社(Melrose Credit unx)打来电话,提出延长贷款期限,并且再借给他15万美元。
他同意了。他说,他会用这笔钱来偿还为他凑齐首付的家人。他还说,梅尔罗斯信用合作社在立即不到一小时内开出了支票。

When medallion prices passed $1 million, the wives implored the brothers to sell.

当营运执照的价格炒到100万美元时,两兄弟的妻子哀求他们赶紧把营运执照卖了。

“I’m not scared,” Kenny said, his brother recalled. “Are you scared?”
“No,” Richard said. “I trust the city.”
Soon after, the medallion bubble burst.
‘He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t work.’

“我不害怕,”肯尼当时说。“大哥你怕吗?”
“不,”理查德说。“我信任这座城市。”
不久,营运执照的泡沫破裂了,价格直线下跌。
理查德回忆说,弟弟开始睡不着。也没法工作。”

The brothers worked seven days a week, and they only made a little more than they needed for their monthly loan payments. Richard’s was $3,500; Kenny’s was more than $4,000.

兄弟俩每周工作7天,每月收入只比需要偿还的贷款多一点点。理查德要还3500美元;肯尼要还的钱超过了4000美元。

The math got tougher as ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft grew in popularity, reducing their riders and revenues.

随着优步(Uber)和Lyft等网约车服务越来越受欢迎,他俩的乘客数量和营收都在减少,要维持收支平衡越来越困难。

Richard said he and Kenny asked for leniency on their loan payments and were rebuffed. Instead, records show, Melrose moved to tighten its grip on the Chows.

理查德说,他和肯尼要求贷款机构通融处理,但遭到了拒绝。记录显示,梅尔罗斯反而增加了对两兄弟的限制。

Kenny’s original loans listed him as the sole borrower, and his medallion as the only collateral.

在最初的贷款中,肯尼是唯一的借款人,他的营运执照是唯一的抵押品。

But in 2016, Melrose added Kenny’s wife as a co-debtor and expanded the collateral to include everything they owned or would ever own. Kenny signed, although it is unclear if he understood the change. He did not have a lawyer.

但在2016年,梅尔罗斯将肯尼的妻子列为共同债务人,并扩大了抵押品范围,包括他们拥有的或未来可能拥有的全部财产。在合同上,肯尼签了名,至于他是否注意到这一变化就不得而知了。他当时依然没有请律师。

Melrose, under pressure from its regulator, the National Credit unx Administration, also threatened to sue many medallion owners in 2017.

最后,在监管机构国家信用社管理局(National Credit unx Administration)的压力下,梅尔罗斯信用社威胁要在2017年起诉许多营运执照的持有者。



On the night that Kenny disappeared, May 11, 2018, Richard clung to hope. He knew driving could be exhausting, so he thought his brother had lain down and fallen into a deep slumber. Or maybe he went on a meditation retreat, or on a hunt for extra money.

2018年5月11日,在肯尼失踪的那个晚上,理查德依然抱着一线希望。他知道开车很累,所以他以为弟弟只是找了个地方沉沉睡去了。或者去做冥想治疗了,又或者是去赚外快了。

After a week, Richard led a news conference to publicize the case. He distributed posters: “MISSING: 5 feet 6 inches tall. Weight about 140 lbs. Last seen wearing white T-shirt and khaki pants.”

一周后,理查德召开新闻发布会,通报了弟弟失踪的情况。他还到处分发寻人启事:“失踪者身高5英尺6英寸。体重约140磅。最后看到时身穿白色T恤和卡其裤。”

The next day, a television reporter knocked on Kenny’s door and asked his wife if she thought he was alive. “I have no idea,” she said through tears. “I’m very scared.”

第二天,一个电视记者敲开肯尼家的门,问肯尼的妻子认为肯尼是否还活着。
“我不知道,”肯尼的妻子流着泪说。“我很害怕。”

On May 23, someone spotted a body in the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge, six miles south of the park where Kenny’s cab had been abandoned. It took the authorities three days to confirm the body was Kenny, using dental records.

5月23日,有人在布鲁克林大桥附近的东河边发现了一具尸体,位于肯尼的出租车被丢弃的公园以南6英里处。当局用了三天时间才根据牙医记录确认死者是肯尼。

At a vigil, Richard could barely speak. “I loved my brother,” he said as he wept. “He was very hardworking. He loved his family. That’s all I want to say.”

悼念仪式上的理查德几乎说不出话来。“我爱我弟弟,”他哭着说。“他非常努力的工作。他爱家人。这就是我想说的。”

Because of the change listing Kenny’s wife as a co-debtor, she inherited his loan when he died. But it did not torment her for long. She died a few months after her husband. Their daughter, who did not get entrapped in the loan, has returned to college. She is now 23.

由于合同的变化,肯尼的妻子也被列为共同债务人,肯尼去世后,她继承了他的贷款。但这并没有令她痛苦很久。她只比丈夫晚几个月去世。他们的女儿没有被这笔贷款所困,已经回到大学。她今年23岁。

It is impossible to know why anyone takes his or her own life. But friends believe Kenny was overwhelmed by his loans and by competition from ride-hailing. They do not think it was a coincidence that he left his cab two blocks from Gracie Mansion, the traditional home of the mayor, in a city that had ignored bad lending practices and allowed Uber and Lyft to encroach.

一个人自杀的原因可能永远无从得知。但朋友们认为,肯尼被贷款和网约车服务的竞争压垮了。纽约市无视不良贷款行为,允许优步和Lyft侵蚀出租车司机的地盘,因此,他们认为,肯尼把出租车停在传统的市长官邸——格雷西大厦两个街区外的地方并不是巧合。

A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio noted he did not take office until 2014. “One of our first actions was halting medallion sales, and we were one of the first and most ardent voices for curbing the rapid growth of corporations like Uber,” she said.

纽约市长的发言人指出,“我们首先采取的行动之一是叫营运执照的销售,我们是最早也是最积极地要求遏制优步等打车公司快速扩张的声音之一,”市长发言人说。

Bill Heinzen, who has been the acting head of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission since March, released a statement that mentioned that his own brother had died by suicide. “The death of Kenny Chow and other drivers deeply affected us,” Heinzen said.

自今年3月以来,一直担任纽约市出租车委员会代主席的比尔·海因策(Bill Heinzen)发表了一份声明,其中提到他自己也有个兄弟自杀身亡。“肯尼·周和其他司机的死深深地触动了我们,”海因策说。



Today, Richard is still struggling to pay his own loan. He owes $402,000, and he said it is hard to make the $2,766 monthly payments. He cannot support his daughter and his son, 19, who are both in school.

如今,理查德仍在为偿还自己的贷款而苦苦挣扎。他还欠了40.2万美元,他说,每月偿还2766美元非常艰难。他无法养活女儿和19岁的儿子,两人都在上学。

He said if officials do not bail out medallion owners, as they are now considering, he plans to declare bankruptcy.

理查德说,官方应该考虑救助营运执照的持有者,如果他们做不到,他将宣布破产。

For now, Richard works seven days a week, typically from 10 a.m. until midnight.

目前,理查德每周工作七天,通常是从上午10点到午夜。

Every day, to get to work, he takes the Brooklyn Bridge, driving over the river where his younger brother took his last breath.

每天他都会经由布鲁克林大桥去上班,在弟弟丧命的那条河上驶过。