NEW YORK — They came by foot - most in sneakers; by cab - often quadrupled up; by bike - bundled against the cold; and by train - with standing room only into Manhattan. On the first day of the first major transit strike in 25 years, most New Yorkers made it to work. And those that didn't in person, cyber-commuted.
Proving Mayor Michael Bloomberg's contention that "New Yorkers have made a habit of pulling through tough times and showing doubters what we're made of," the city functioned Tuesday. Maybe not quite like usual. Most of the double parking along Fifth Avenue was of bikes, bolted to sign posts. There were more cabs than cars along major downtown avenues, which flowed with remarkable ease - that's if they were open to anything other than emergency vehicles. It was the sidewalks where gridlock was an issue.
But most commuters seemed to take the strike in stride - some literally. John Giacona walked for an hour and 45 minutes up from the Long Island Ferry at the Battery to his job at 42nd and 5th, and was only ten minutes late for work. "The best thing: free. The worst thing: little tired."
Beatrice Mottola wasn't as lucky. She lives way up in the Bronx and had to get a friend's brother to drive her to the Metro-North train station, which was packed. After waiting in a line for a ticket, that cost $40, and missing three trains, she then had to stand the 45 minute long ride into Midtown Manhattan."It was a hassle, really a big hassle," she says.
For bus commuters coming into the city from New Jersey, there was actually a transportation upside to the strike. The usually congested Lincoln Tunnel was flowing like it was Sunday morning.
"It was smooth riding, not a truck and not a car was coming through that tunnel," says Cheryl Dawkins, who took the bus in from Jersey City. "I feel sorry for the people that do have to walk on this cold morning."
But most were prepared, like Jennifer Tarsoly, who was walking from 101st Street down to 42nd clad in sneakers, layers of long-johns and sweaters under her calf-length coat, and bundled in a scarf and hat.
"Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do," she says. "I'm walking today, and they're striking."
And some New Yorkers even found a silver lining to their convoluted morning commute.
"I would have never met these wonderful people," says Laura Meculita, a strike supporter, who was sharing her third cab in her trek from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn up to her job on 57th Street. "I think it's great, the workers standing together." But not everyone in her taxi was as sanguine about the strike, new friends not withstanding.
"I think it's very unfair to us, the people," says Ophelia de Jesus, who had to pay $10 for a cab, instead of the usual $2 to hop on the subway from the New Jersey PATH train downtown. "The strikers want to get paid more than teachers, they're unreasonable."
There is one thing most New Yorkers agree on. They'd like the strike to end as soon as possible.
"It is good exercise, I won't have to go to the gym this morning," says Wade Harwick, who was smiling as he walked from Port Authority on 42nd and 8th up to his office on 55th Street on the East Side. But when asked how long he'd keep that up: "about a day."