NYC Commuters Head to Work on Foot

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined many other commuters walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to work Tuesday morning. Those affected by the massive transit worker strike have been forced to walk, carpool or find other ways to get around.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And thousands of commuters walked into New York City today, including these people on the Brooklyn Bridge, starting with Marty Markowitz, who is Brooklyn borough president.

Mr. MARTY MARKOWITZ: Good morning, folks. Good morning, Brooklyn.

Unidentified Woman #1: Good morning.

Mr. MARKOWITZ: Happy holidays. Let's make the best of this that we can. We'll get through it, Brooklyn. I promise you we'll get by this.

Ms. RACHEL HEIMAN: My name is Rachel Heiman.

Ms. MABE CARRIE: My name is Mabe Carrie(ph).

Ms. RACHEL COHN: My name is Rachel Cohn.

LUKE BURBANK reporting:

Where you coming from?

Unidentified Woman #2: Sunset Park. It's a good 40-minute commute by subway.

BURBANK: You didn't walk from Sunset Park, did you?

Unidentified Woman #2: I did, only because...

BURBANK: You crazy?

Unidentified Woman #2: I feel weird--at least not giving it a valiant try to get to the office, so I thought, you know, for the first day I'll walk, see how it goes. Tomorrow's another story.

BURBANK: How long have you been walking?

Unidentified Woman #2: For a good couple of hours. But you know, walking is like--it's so easy, and it's not raining. It's a beautiful day, so it could be worse.

MONTAGNE: And that male voice you heard just then was NPR's Luke Burbank. He's been on the Brooklyn Bridge all morning.

And, Luke, the rush hour is now over. How did it go? How did the commute go?

BURBANK: You know, Renee, it's starting to feel and it feels now even like a little bit a party here on the bridge. People have their digital cameras out. They're taking pictures. It sort of feels like, you know, a snow day when you were a little kid, although I can tell you that there are not going to be as many smiling faces in about eight, nine hours when these folks are walking the other direction in the dark and cold. So we'll see what--that will be the real test come later this afternoon.

MONTAGNE: Right, or tomorrow or the next day.

BURBANK: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: Among those crossing the bridge was Mayor Bloomberg, and I gather you got a chance to talk to him.

BURBANK: Yeah, I did. He had a very, very tight bubble of security around him, and it was not as effusive as, say, Mayor Ed Koch was back in 1980 when he famously walked across this bridge during the last such strike. But he said it was a nice day for walking, however, he said he wasn't really happy of why he was make the walk.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): The sad thing is that we are taking this walk because of an illegal strike. It'd be nice to just go out and walk, but people are trying to walk today because it's the only ways they could get to work or get to school or get to where they have to go.

BURBANK: And it was no accident, Renee, that he characterized it as an illegal strike. That's something that city and state officials have really made a point to mention to the media, that this is actually illegal under New York law.

MONTAGNE: And there are police operating checkpoints at entry points to the city. What are the things they're looking for?

BURBANK: Well, they're stopping any car that doesn't have at least four people in it, and stopping them from coming into the city. There are a few exceptions I found out when I spent some time at a checkpoint. If somebody has an appointment for surgery, if somebody is themselves a doctor or a police officer who has a scheduled shift. Those people if they can corroborate it with paperwork are allowed into the city with less than four people. But what you get are a lot of people who are just single in their car sort of circling the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, just kind of begging people to let them into their car--to get into the car to come across. In fact, I got asked by about three different people if I could get in their car. Finally, I did it just because I was curious about what the ride across would be, and the people who I got in the car with were kind of relieved because one of them was actually late for work already. So just briefly, besides walking and getting into other people's cars, how are people getting around the city?

BURBANK: Anyway they can. I mean, I've seen Rollerbladers, bicyclists, people on those Razor scooters that all the kids got a couple Christmases ago. Anyway they can they're trying to get in the city. Again, the question'll be how are they going to get home.

MONTAGNE: Thanks, Luke.

BURBANK: Sure.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Luke Burbank, and he's speaking to us from the Brooklyn Bridge in New York where the transit workers are on strike.

This is NPR News.

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