Cabbies fear congestion pricing could lead to more suicides

The “congestion pricing” surcharge on all Big Apple taxi rides that begins in January will lead to even more cabdriver suicides, drivers and activists warned at a City Council hearing Monday.

“This year, there have been eight suicides, and next year, with the $2.50 on our backs, there will be more than 10,” taxi driver Nicolae Hent predicted.

Hent was the best friend of Nicanor Ochisor, who hanged himself in his garage in April — one of eight for-hire drivers who committed suicide in the past year over a loss of business and plummeting medallion prices.

The state passed a truncated congestion pricing plan earlier this year that created a surcharge for all for-hire rides. It will cost an extra $2.50 for taxis, $2.75 for Uber, Lyft or other black cars and 75 cents for ride-shares.

Congestion-pricing advocates had hoped that private vehicles would also be subject to fees, but the state Legislature didn’t pass that version. They’re still banking on it happening in 2019.

The surcharge — on top of the 80-cent tax on each yellow cab ride and regular sales tax on ride shares — will keep people from hiring cars and will further chip away at the finances of struggling drivers, say industry advocates.

“I am once again mystified as to why my own government, in this case New York state, would seek to make what is already a horrific situation even worse,” said taxi medallion owner Carolyn Protz.

“After eight suicides, it’s hard to believe . . . they are even considering a new burden on the industry.”

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance wants the state to exempt yellow cabs from congestion pricing.

“The City Council and mayor must step in and defend yellow cab drivers who are already facing unprecedented devastation and could lose as much as $15,000 in income if they are not exempted from congestion pricing,” said executive director Bhairavi Desai.

“Congestion pricing on the backs of New York City’s struggling drivers would be one more case of shamelessly stealing from the poor, from people who have nothing left to give.”

Taxi advocates also railed against the lack of monitoring technology in black cars. Uber and Lyft will be required to self-report their trip data to the TLC.

Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who heads up the new For-Hire Vehicle committee, said he is looking into whether the city has any power to stop congestion pricing.

“It is abusive for the drivers. People are killing themselves and the state is contributing,” he said. “The state should be helping them, not putting more pressure on them.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said it will monitor how the congestion pricing plan works.

“Next year, we will continue to work with the Legislature to evaluate this surcharge and pass comprehensive congestion pricing once and for all,” said Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens.

Fired investigations chief says mayor pressured him to quash reports

Mayor de Blasio pushed the city Department of Investigation to quash reports exposing failures in his administration, the agency’s recently fired chief alleged in an explosive letter on Monday.

The arm-twisting from City Hall included “a late-night screaming call” from the mayor, pressure to keep damaging reports under wraps — and an NYPD official flashing a gun for intimidation, outgoing DOI Commissioner Mark Peters wrote in the letter to City Council leaders.

De Blasio booted Peters on Friday for allegedly violating whistleblower laws in his attempt to take over the Department of Education’s investigations division.

But Peters said Hizzoner actually terminated him in retribution for past investigations and to blunt ongoing probes.

“These incidents demonstrate a pattern in which the mayor and his senior staff believe that I owe a duty of loyalty to the mayor rather than to the city as a whole and that my actions, in exposing waste, fraud or abuse in city agencies . . . are improper and justify retribution,” Peters wrote.

The letter chronicles two years of increasingly fractured relations between de Blasio and Peters — a onetime friend who served as his campaign treasurer in 2013 — as the DOI issued one blistering report after another exposing failings and wrongdoing at city agencies.

Peters claimed de Blasio called him hours before he released a January 2017 report into major problems at the Administration for Children’s Services following a toddler’s death and asked him not to publish the findings.

When Peters refused, he said, de Blasio grew irate, accused him of trying to bring his administration “down” and then said he was “going to hang up now before I say something I shouldn’t.”

The following day, Peters said, he was summoned to a meeting with First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and City Hall staff.

“I was pointedly told that the report would be embarrassing to the mayor and asked, in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable, whether I was really prepared to do that,” he wrote.

The pattern repeated in April 2017 as the DOI prepared to expose Department of Correction boss Joseph Ponte for using his city car and driver for personal travel, Peters alleged.

Shorris allegedly asked Peters to “forbear” issuing the report because it would embarrass Ponte, and Peters said he later heard that “the mayor and his senior staff were ‘really angry,’ felt I should be more ‘loyal,’ and now wondered if I was ‘still a friend.’ ”

And as the DOI prepared its report laying out the New York City Housing Authority’s years-long failure to conduct lead inspections, as well as then-Chairwoman Shola Olatoye’s false claims that it had, he alleged Shorris applied pressure again.

“When I informed him that DOI could not withhold this report related to public safety issues . . . he became annoyed and informed me that in his view, as a city commissioner, I had an obligation to comply with his request to protect the interests of the agency in question, NYCHA,” Peters wrote.

Five days after the DOI released its NYCHA investigation, The Post reported that de Blasio wanted Peters canned.

Peters claimed City Hall’s interference also impacted DOI probes into the NYPD, which he says repeatedly withheld documents and witnesses.

At a 2016 meeting of DOI, City Hall and NYPD officials about the lack of cooperation, Peters alleged, an unnamed senior police official “conspicuously displayed his gun” and later “told a third party that he had done so to intimidate the DOI officials.”

He claims neither Shorris nor the city’s top lawyer, Zachary Carter, objected to that behavior. Instead, Peters claimed, Shorris called him an “a- -hole” for insisting the NYPD produce documents.

In the letter, Peters warned that his ouster would have a “chilling effect” on his successor as he confirmed the DOI still has ongoing probes into NYCHA, the NYPD and alleged City Hall interference into the Department of Education’s review of yeshivas.

De Blasio denied he or others asked Peters to spike reports.

“It’s just false. I’m sure I had conversations with Mr. Peters, and I’m sure I had disagreements, but that characterization is false,” he said at an unrelated press conference.

“Look, unfortunately this is an individual who did some very inappropriate things . . . Those characterizations are not fair and not accurate.”

Hizzoner said there were “conversations” about reports regarding “accuracy” and “specific recommendations” but never an “effort to inhibit the actions of DOI on a specific report.”

He argued it was “100 percent appropriate” for City Hall to “debate what to do about findings.”

City Hall staked Peters’ firing on a report Peters himself commissioned. It found he violated whistleblower laws by retaliating against staff at the DOE investigative office who questioned his effort to take over their operation.

In his letter, Peters argues that the report “simply does not provide the mayor with a proper reason for removing me” and that it was riddled with errors.

The mayor has nominated Margaret Garnett, a top official in the Attorney General’s Office, to replace Peters, pending approval by the City Council.

The City Charter grants a DOI commissioner the right to reply if fired but offers no provision for contesting such a termination.

Councilman Ritchie Torres, who chairs the council’s investigations committee, and Speaker Corey Johnson expressed alarm at Peters’ allegations but treated his departure as a fait accompli.

“The letter in question reveals a pattern of interference with DOI investigations and intimidation against DOI officials that borders on the unethical and should be illegal,” Torres said in statement.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade could be a frigid nightmare

This holiday forecast blows!

Thanksgiving paradegoers should bundle up for the coldest temperatures in 20 years — and brace for powerful winds that threaten to ground dazzling giant balloons.

It’s expected to plunge into the low 20s in Manhattan — but it will feel more like the teens — in the coldest projected Thanksgiving on record since 1996, meteorologists told The Post.

“It’s going to be brutal out there,” said Accuweather senior meteorologist Dave Dombek. “It’s going to be cold. Very, very cold.”

He added, “If things stay as is, this will be the third-coldest Thanksgiving in New York history” — with the most frigid reaching a low of 19 degrees in 1901.

Sustained wind could reach up to 25 mph and gusts could blow up to 35 mph, which would ground beloved balloons such as Charlie Brown, the Grinch and SpongeBob SquarePants.

If sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts surpass 34 mph, none of this year’s 16 character balloons will be allowed to soar due to city regulations, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade spokesman Orlando Veras told The Post.

It would be the first time the city has grounded the colorful balloons since 1971. In 1997, a woman was left in a coma when a powerful gust of wind caused the Cat in the Hat balloon to strike a streetlight, which fell and hit her head.

But organizers haven’t yet made a call about whether to ground the balloons this year.

“It is too early to make any determinations as to the flight of the balloons,” Veras said Monday.

“In the morning, just prior to the start of the event, Macy’s and the NYPD will make a final determination on the flight of the giant balloons, based on the current weather data available from the parade route and a number of additional sources.”

Overall, Thursday’s low temperature is expected to be 21 degrees with a wind chill factor of 10 to 16 degrees, Dombek said.

New floats this year include Elf on the Shelf, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Splashing Safari Adventure by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, and Fantasy Chocolate Factory by Kinder. Oldies but goodies include the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Grinch and Ronald McDonald.