News & Politics

Transit Strike: Working Class vs. Working Class


On the streets of Brooklyn, about the only thing people are jawing about is the city’s transit strike. At Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, traffic today has often come near to a standstill. Cars blare and pedestrians shout. White commuter vans idle on the sidelines, as residents scramble to find a way—any way—to get into Manhattan.

There are folks like Cecilia, a Park Slope resident (she declined to give her last name), who woke up at the crack of dawn to walk from 6th Avenue and schlep over the Brooklyn Bridge. By midday, Cecilia was already returning, pink-cheeked and bundled, trekking up Flatbush Avenue toward her home.

Cecelia admits that she was initially angry at the TWU leadership. It wasn’t because she thinks transit workers are overpaid. “They have a huge responsibility. They should make more money,” she offers.

Still, the slog from Park Slope to her company’s Manhattan office—she can’t get to the office where she normally works, in Long Island City—hasn’t been easy. “I wouldn’t want to do it every day.”

Prospect Heights residents Colin Killalea and Eli Finkleman also find the transit strike manageable, if only because they haven’t had to go into Manhattan yet. As Finkleman quips, “It’s A-OK by me.” All along Atlantic, the pair has seen people of all stripes—Wall Streeters, yuppies, immigrants—forming make-shift carpools, banding together to solve their commuter problems.

“It’s great,” Killalea says. “It’s something you don’t see every day.” Of course, he’s still figuring out how he’s going to get to an evening rehearsal. By then, he acknowledges, his attitude toward the strike could change.

Laverne Eaton, of Bedford Stuyvesant, wasn’t nearly as chipper. He’d just walked a mile from his Lafayette Street home to the Atlantic Avenue mall, where his security company is supposed to pick him up in a private bus. He’s a security guard at the Skyline Hotel, in Midtown, on the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift and is worried how he’ll get home. That’s if he even makes it to Manhattan—he had been waiting for 30 minutes already.

Eaton thinks the transit workers are “greedy.” Last night, he relays, “I heard the union guy say he’s going to bring back the middle class. He’s going to do that all by himself? He’s on a crusade!”

Diana Massey, of Crown Heights, is tempted to call the union workers greedy as well. But, she says, “I don’t have all the facts. So I will say this—it’s hurting the city.”

Massey took vacation time from her job, in Rockefeller Center, because she couldn’t handle the stress of commuting without the subway. But she has spent today figuring out a backup plan: Tomorrow, she’ll get on the Long Island Railroad at Nostrand Avenue, in Brooklyn, and take it to Jamaica, Queens, where she can pick up a second LIRR train into Herald Square, in Manhattan. Massey trekked down to the LIRR station at the Atlantic Avenue mall to buy her tickets ahead of time.

“If I have to leave at 5 a.m. to get to work tomorrow,” she says, “I’m not gonna stand on line for anybody.”

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