My children watched a documentary on Netflix known as ‘A feared city.’ I don’t watch a lot of tv, only the news and Pakistani political talk shows. But that documentary caught my attention because I lived through it.
“I saw all this happen in the eighties and nineties.” I told my kids as I sat with them.
“No way!” my youngest son paused the show as he smiled in excitement. “Tell us more.”
I told him that back in the days, in the 80’s and 90’s NYC was practically ruled by the Mafia. There were so many different kinds of Mafia: the TLC, the unions, the constructions. Almost everything came under the mafia. Ordinary people like you and me would sell drugs on 42nd street between Broadway and eighth avenue. Getting drugs was as easy as getting pizza from a corner store. At times people would pass out randomly on the streets because of the drugs and weirdly this was normal for us. Even the cops were either afraid of the Mafia or they worked for the Mafia. I was shot in the head back then too.
Sometimes the people we would pick up would tell us they needed to make a few stops before going to their final destinations. Often these people would get out of my cab, go to the next block, pick up a package and come back in my cab. A few even exchanged packages inside my cab. This whole thing would be done in less then ten minutes.
One time I remember I was going downtown on 7th avenue. As soon as I made a turn on 42nd street, two men of color lifted their hands up into the air to stop me. I parked my cab by the curb and motioned for them to come in. One sat in my car and the other one said to his friend. “I’ll meet you home.”
“Where to?” I asked the man, feeling uncomfortable. I don’t like it when people sit in the passenger’s seat. I would prefer if they sit in the back.
“46th street Broadway, but I need to make a couple of stops on the way.”
I couldn’t refuse so I agreed. On his first stop he jumped out of the cab and met another man who handed him something, which the man hid in his pockets. He came back and told me to take him to a restaurant which was on 7th avenue and 64th street. He took a while in the restaurant. After that he wanted me to take him to 8th street and second avenue. There a person was waiting for him. They exchanged something between closed fists.
I became terrified because I knew he was doing something illegal, but I didn’t know what to do. Should I report him to the police or take him to his final destination, which was in brooklyn. I decided to go with the latter. I dropped him off close to Atlantic avenue. Before leaving he gave me a really good tip.
But times were so bad that Time square and Port Authority were filled crime. Each day we would hear about a Taxi driver being murdered and killed.
But thank goodness we made it through, and the police worked with special forces to clean out the city. It’s much safer now compared to back in the days.