Pastor Cabbie Delivers Slice of Heaven
At a quick stop to feed the homeless at Tompkins Square Park, the taxi driver turns around and says with a smile, “I’ll be right back. There’s plenty of food if you’re hungry and cigarettes in the glove compartment if you smoke. If the police come to give me a ticket, jump in the front seat and take her around the block!”
Phil Frabosilo, known as Pastor Phil, is stout and scruffy with a bushy moustache. He calls his cab “the ministry on wheels.” It’s plastered with pictures of family and friends, trinkets of Jesus and other religious figures, and Halloween decorations. He often keeps a heaping pile of pizza on the front passenger seat.
Frabosilo has been a New York cab driver since 1969 and a street minister since 1982. He operates his cab seven days a week, 12 hours each day, serving the homeless and ministering to his passengers.
Most of the food that Frabosilo distributes is donated by local businesses in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but the majority of his distribution takes place in Manhattan in the East Village and the Lower East Side because he can find more people there who need his services.
He pulls away from the curb with a smile, neglecting to turn on the meter. “What a wild life I’ve had,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s like a madhouse!” Something feels odd — this taxi has no plastic divider.
A tattered three-ring binder packed with worn laminated photos of “family, friends, and pets” always sits in the front of the cab. Frabosilo says that his wife of 36 years, Judy, is his major inspiration in life. They are both avid pug lovers — they have three. Frabosilo jokes that his wife sometimes feels neglected when homeless people approach him when they’re out.
“‘I’m not as important as the homeless man?’” he chirps in a raspy falsetto impression of his wife.
Frabosilo grew up in Brooklyn as a third generation Italian immigrant. “I grew up as what I like to call a ‘good American heathen,’” he said. “I had no use for anything that had the smell of religion, Christianity, or God. I just felt that it wasn’t for me.”
Frabosilo was inspired to start preaching after his father died in the 1980s.
“When my father died he had left a Bible in his toolbox and he had left the toolbox at my home,” he said. “It was because of that scripture that I began ministering in the streets.”
Frabosilo started attending churches across the city. However, he quickly became discontent. “The forces of evil have crept in and set up shop within the Church. Something is very wrong with the Church these days — it’s like it’s got Leukemia of the soul,“ he said. “I really don’t see a healthy Christian mind developing in the Church.”
He coined the term “churchianity,” referring to Americans’ dependence on the Church to actively practice their religion.
Frabosilo started his own street ministry after leaving the Church. He began preaching in parks and to those riding in his taxicab. He still holds a service every Wednesday at Washington Square Park as well as in Far Rockaway a few times throughout the year.
“The only way to beat the system is to understand the system and believe in your heart that your way is better than the system, and then go out and be a conqueror,” he said.
Frabosilo says that he only preaches to people that are receptive, but does enjoy debating from time to time. “I’ll have fun with Atheists every once and a while,” he chuckled. “I really have tremendous respect for Atheistic people. They have mega minds.”
Finally, Frabosilo thoughtfully offered his advice for young university students: “If you love your life, then don’t squander your time, because that’s the stuff that your life is made of. Amen.” With a smile, Pastor Phil pulled away to pick up his next passenger.