New Yorkers Head Back To Work Without A Subway

Traffic in and around downtown Manhattan was a nightmare on Wednesday as millions of New Yorkers tried to get around the city without a subway system.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In New York City, lots of people did their best today to get back to business as usual. But in a place that runs on public transit, that was tricky. NPR's Zoe Chace has this story about the adventure of getting into and around the city.

ZOE CHACE, BYLINE: Getting from Brooklyn to Manhattan is usually super easy. You take the subway. Not today, of course. So for lots of people, the day started like this.

LIONEL BENEVIDES: We got off around 7 o'clock, and look what time it is, 10 o'clock and 12 minutes and...

CHACE: Where are you?

BENEVIDES: Just - well, Atlantic and what?

CHACE: Lionel Benevides is sitting in traffic in Brooklyn near the bridge. He's driving a couple of guys to Westchester to work at a jewelry store. At this rate, by the time he gets there, he'll have to close up shop. Cars are basically parked at the mouth of the bridge. It's barely moving. So lots of people biked or ran. Hey, man, why are you running?

MIGUEL HERNANDEZ: I'm running because I'm going to work - to go work, to my job.

CHACE: What do you do?

HERNANDEZ: I'm a waiter.

CHACE: Miguel Hernandez has to get to his job on the Upper East Side. He still got about 5 miles to go.

HERNANDEZ: Now I'm going to take a cab.

CHACE: Now you're going to take a cab?

HERNANDEZ: Yeah.

CHACE: All right.

HERNANDEZ: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

CHACE: The cabs are picking up as many passengers as they can fit. The mayor issued an order saying multiple pickups are a good idea. Al Kaleel is a cabbie. He's into it.

AL KALEEL: In the morning, I was driving up 1st Avenue. I took like four people going uptown. Lot of traffic. They didn't mind.

CHACE: When there's traffic, passengers are always yelling at the cab driver, there's a better way to get to where we're going. Not today.

KALEEL: When you have crisis, that's what good about New York. Everybody help each other.

CHACE: It's true. People do like to help each other in New York because there's a shared impatience here. Everyone wants everything to move quickly, and so they work together to do it. Or they make a business out of it.

WELLINGTON MATINI: $5 to charge your phone.

CHACE: $5 to charge your phone?

MATINI: Yeah.

CHACE: Wellington Matini, he's a parking attendant. The garage he works at is closed. But he's here with a headlamp on and a bunch of cars running with phone chargers.

Does the garage know about this?

MATINI: No.

(LAUGHTER)

CHACE: Getting through the city is tough with no street lights. When you get to Water Street - appropriately named, near the tip of Manhattan - the basements here are waterlogged. Water pours out of pumps and down the stairs onto the street.

JOHN ALEXANDER: We're just pumping out the basement.

CHACE: John Alexander will be running this pump for hours and hours. He takes me downstairs to see the 4 feet of green water under the store. Draining the city out, and then he'll have to get home.

ALEXANDER: (Unintelligible) the bridge, back to (unintelligible) bridge and get across. So that's (unintelligible) to get here.

CHACE: By the time he gets there, he just might have to turn around and come back. Zoe Chace, NPR News, New York.

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