NYC Transit Strike Paralyzes City – Caribbean New Yorkers Among The Distressed

Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y., Weds. Dec. 21, 2005: One Guyanese national from Brooklyn carpooled in to make it to work yesterday, a Jamaican national caught a dollar van after a one-hour wait while others skipped work altogether.

These Caribbean nationals are among the seven million New Yorkers who were affected by day one of the Transit Workers Union strike that paralyzed the ‘Big Apple’ yesterday, costing the city some $40 billion and forcing many to battle the bitter cold to find alternative methods of commute.

Jamaican national and bank manager, Dwight Genias, says he left his Cambria Heights home early yesterday morning for the Parsons and Archer subway stop in Queens.

He says after his brother dropped him off about 6:45, he was greeted by thongs of people lined up outside the station, looking for alternative means to get to their city jobs.

“It was a zoo and so cold,” said Genias yesterday. “I’ve never seen so many people out there.”

Luckily for him, a ‘dollar van’ pulled up and offered $5 ride to midtown an hour later. “I was the first in there,” said Genias, adding that the van dropped him off at 41st and Park Avenue leaving him only six blocks to walk to his office.

As for getting back to Queens after work? Genias was hoping the same van driver would be able to pick him up back after 4 p.m. Still despite the inconvenience, he said he’s in support of the striking workers, who despite a $1 million fine ruled by Judge Theodore Jones yesterday, remained off the job last night.

The walking distance for another Jamaican national and Brooklyn resident was, however, a lot longer. Lyndon Taylor says while he got a car ride into the city to 14th Street, he ended up walking all the way to mid-town, to 57th Street.

Guyanese national, Allison Skeete, meanwhile, says she and three others drove into work yesterday in New York City, going through police checkpoints and past thousands who trekked across the famous Brooklyn Bridge to make it to their jobs.

“We made it in 45 minutes,” she said, adding that today she is not sure how to make up the four riders and may have to pick someone up along the way.

But two other Guyanese nationals, Val Williams from Brooklyn and a Jamaica, Queens resident, we spoke to stayed home instead, avoiding the strike’s ramifications altogether.

The strike was last night set to continue today even as Brooklyn Congressman Ed Towns, (D-NY 10), called upon New York Governor George E. Pataki to intervene in the transit talks.

Pataki for his part, like Mayor Mike Bloomberg, however, reiterated all day long yesterday, that the walk-off by the public service employees was “illegal” under the state’s Taylor law.

“They have broken the trust of the people of New York. They have not only endangered our city and state’s economy, but they are also recklessly endangering the health and safety of each and every New Yorker. This strike is illegal, unacceptable and will carry severe penalties for the union and its members,” the governor, who has been largely missing in action from the negotiations, said in a statement.

Mayor Bloomberg called the strike “selfish and illegal,” criticizing the Trinidad-born union leader and his members.

“Roger Toussaint and the TWU have shamefully decided they don’t care about the people they work for and that they have no respect for the law,” he said during a press conference. “The leadership of the TWU has thuggishly turned their backs on New York City, and disgraced the noble concept of public service.”

The statement was greeted with criticism by a Brooklyn Caribbean group, which called the reference to Toussaint as a coward and a thug “repugnant.”

Rickford Burke, head of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy said the mayor’s reference “can be interpreted as having racial overtones.”

“This is wholly unacceptable to our community,” said Burke. “I have never heard the mayor refer to leaders of the PBA, Fire Fighters Union or any other leader of a municipal workers union in these terms. His language is therefore repugnant.”

He added that attacking Toussaint “personally is ignoble.”

“The union leader is taking a principled stand, not only on behalf of transit workers, but also in defense of all city workers who are witnessing the systematic erosion of their benefits and living standards,” stated Burke. “We therefore hail his courage in the face of intimidation and ill will.” –