New York City’s 65,000 delivery bikers move faster than just about anything else in the city—chasing tips, fearing penalties, targeted by thieves, largely unprotected by cops. In partnership with The Verge, New York’s September 13-26, 2021 issue cover story looks at how groups of workers fed up with increasingly brutal conditions are now fending for themselves.
The Verge’s investigations editor Josh Dzieza reported this story over the course of two months, speaking with over 20 delivery workers whenever they were able to take breaks from their demanding jobs, typically either in the mid-afternoon or late at night, and often in parks, garages, or the underpass at Willis Avenue Bridge where many gather at night to guard against bike thefts. When he initially started reporting on this piece, Dzieza had expected the job of a delivery worker to be lonely and isolated, as has often been the case with other types of gig work he’s covered. However, as soon as Anthony Chavez took him to the underground garage the workers use as a makeshift break room, it became clear that this wasn’t the case. “It was obvious that the gig platforms sat on top of close-knit immigrant communities,” Dzieza says. ”They had been fending for themselves for years, but following the pandemic, their frustrations and consequently ambitions had grown, and they were mobilizing in different ways, from traditional political activism to self-defense.”
This piece marks the first partnership between New York Magazine and their Vox Media colleagues at The Verge. The story began as an assignment on how the prevalence of ebikes might affect New York City’s bike lanes. However, as Dzieza began to report, spending more and more time with the delivery workers who often rely on these bikes for their jobs, he realized this story was much bigger than just ebikes. It was, in fact, the story of New York’s broader delivery infrastructure, one where workers – many of them undocumented, and many of them exclusively Spanish-speaking – must fend for themselves against outside forces: Seamless, the local government, the NYPD, people who order a single ice cream cone from 30 blocks away and don’t even tip.
“I’m so proud of what we’re publishing,” says Verge features editor Kevin Nguyen, who helped spearhead the partnership. “It feels like the best of both worlds: The Verge’s nitty gritty, nearly obsessive reporting on labor and tech, combined with the ambition and narrative muscle of New York.”
Photographer Philip Montgomery spent seven days on assignment. The cover image was taken on the evening of September 1st, and features Anthony Chavez as he makes dinner deliveries during Hurricane Ida. The piece is accompanied by a short film by Chilean-American filmmaker Danilo Parra, who often works with Montgomery. Montgomery and Parra both shot much of this project on bikes: Montgomery on a bicycle, and Parra, a motorized scooter. “Juan was amazing how he managed to tell his story while navigating the danger of the streets and getting deliveries delivered on time,” says Parra of Juan Solano, the subject of his film. “He turned out to be a diamond in the rough streets.”
Lea el reportaje en español aquí.