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View from a transit bus as a Sandy-immobilized New York gets going

Many New Yorkers ventured back to work two days after the city was yanked to a standstill by hurricane Sandy. But normal patterns of travel remain disrupted, as the Monitor's own reporter can attest.

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The upshot? In 15 minutes, my bus has traveled a grand total of five blocks. It's probably faster to walk. New Yorkers are generally good at this. In transit strikes in 1980 and again in 2005, millions of New Yorkers put on their running shoes, dusted off their bicycles, or shared taxi cabs.

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So, no surprise, the sidewalks on Broadway are crowded, too. Scores of fellow New Yorkers have evidently decided the two-legged option will be quicker. Normally, many would go through Central Park. But the city has shut down the parks because of the danger of falling tree limbs.

As I near Fifth Avenue, my fellow walkers all seem to be talking in a language other than English. I probably should not be surprised. According to New York City & Co., which promotes tourism in the Big Apple, some 48.8 million foreigners visited the city in 2011. On this particular day, a good portion of them seem to be looking at maps and trying to figure out how to see parts of the city reachable by foot.

Normally, some of these well-heeled travelers might stop at Tiffany & Co. or some of the other luxury jewelry dealers. But those showcases on Fifth Avenue are bare: The jewelry companies have removed diamonds and other gems. Perhaps they were afraid of damage to their windows? Or maybe something worse – looting.

Wednesday morning, however, the streets are swarming with police officers. The city has the largest force in the nation: 34,500 strong. Still, that's the slimmest the NYPD has been since 1992, although Mayor Michael Bloomberg likes to note that crime has been falling in the city and that New York does not need more police because it is making better use of technology.

By this time, I'm at Rockefeller Center, and a city bus has arrived. There is a little space to squeeze on, so I ride the last 10 blocks to the office. Time on the road, so to speak: about an hour.

Of course, for many commuters that’s not bad. And on Wednesday, many people are still working from home. All of the rail lines into New York from New Jersey and Long Island remain closed. And Metro-North, which runs trains from the Hudson Valley and Connecticut, has not yet determined when its service will resume, according to its website. It pointed out that it has yet to cope with a 40-foot power boat that had washed up on the tracks at Ossining, N.Y.

At least I didn’t start the day with a problem that size.


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