For taxi drivers like Billy Kimmig, the coronavirus outbreak means spending some nights sleeping at the airport.
"If you get there 11 o'clock at night or 12 o'clock, there’s no flights 'til 5 in the morning, so you keep your place in line, so you sleep in the car," Kimmig said.
Like many sectors of the city’s economy, the taxi industry is reeling from the outbreak.
After all, with few flights, no nightlife and so many New Yorkers staying at home, who needs a cab?
Kimmig has been driving for five years and cabbies like him already were hurting from the flood of drivers working for Uber and Lyft.
But the coronavirus is wiping out fares in a way that e-hail apps never could.
“There’s no business at all," Kimmig said. "You’re lucky if you get three, four rides a day, when you used to get 30, 40 rides a day in the beginning.”
His friend and fellow driver, Joseph Venezia also spends his nights at JFK.
“I never used to have to sleep at the airport to try and get a run early in the morning," Venezia said.
Venezia says he's spending more hours behind the wheel. while earning less, about a third of the city’s minimum wage.
“We’re talking five, six dollars an hour at the end of the day, from when you get up and take your first trip until you’re done, you go back to the airport and go to sleep," Venezia said.
To get more money in drivers’ pockets, the garages where they lease their cabs are giving them a break.
Many garages are offering to split driver fares, 50-50, instead of charging high leasing fees up front.
“They’re gonna work with you and be like a partner with you, on the cab now," Kimmig said. "So we can keep working, we can keep the city moving.”
It’s just one way taxi garages are keeping drivers on the road.
“Some of our fleets are reporting up to 75% down over the last two weeks. But were all in this together," said Michael Woloz, spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade. “We’re just trying to get as many cars as we can out and get as many of our drivers on the road, as we can.”
Some industry officials also are calling for drivers to pocket the state’s $2.50 congestion surcharge for trips south of 96th Street.
While taxi garages are stepping up to help drivers, the Taxi and Limousine Commission is also considering proposals to bring them financial relief.
But the TLC is not saying what those plans will entail, because the details are still being worked out.