- The Washington Times - Friday, December 23, 2005

NEW YORK — New York’s subways and buses were back in action yesterday after a crippling three-day transit strike, but relief was mixed with anger over why the city had been brought to a virtual standstill.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority said in a statement that the largest transit system in the country was back to “full service.”

Seven million commuters were forced to endure long-distance walks, bicycle rides to work in below-freezing weather or sit for hours on choked roads.

The union called off the strike on Thursday following mediation efforts. But many New Yorkers and business owners were left wondering why they had been made to suffer.

“What a waste of time,” said businessman Michael Oliva at a subway station. “Nothing was gained.”

The New York Times released a poll that said 41 percent of New Yorkers blamed both the Transport Workers Union and the New York authorities for the strike, while 27 percent blamed the management exclusively and 25 percent blamed the union.

Contract talks broke down after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority demanded greater pension contributions from the staff. According to press reports, the measure would have saved $20 million over three years.

Union leaders had run the risk of prison time for ignoring a judge’s order to call off what had been ruled an illegal strike.

Workers returned to construction sites yesterday that had been abandoned for three days and shops that had closed early planned to stay open late to salvage the end of the Christmas shopping season.

Nancy Duarte, a hotel worker, said “the strikers were right” even though she had to stay home for three days because taxi fares were expensive.

But Enrique Lopez, a restaurant chef from Brooklyn, was happy that he no longer had to ride his bike for an hour to get to work. “The strikers are responsible, they ask for too much,” he said.

New York authorities estimate the strike cost the city and its businesses about $1 billion, with shops, theaters and restaurants missing out on crucial Christmas sales.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said New York had passed a difficult test, but highlighted the financial toll.

“It wasn’t easy. Certainly serious economic harm was inflicted. But we did what we had to do to keep the city running and running safely,” he said.

Judge Theodore Jones, who had dangled the threat of jail against the strikers, put off the city and state lawsuits against the unions until Jan. 20, hoping both sides could work out an agreement by then.

“I’m pleased on behalf of the people of the city of New York,” Judge Jones said. “Indeed, hopefully we’ll be able to salvage Christmas and hopefully get back on track.”

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