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Mayor Bloomberg Updates New Yorkers On Illegal Strike By Transit Workers

December 21, 2005

Remarks by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as prepared for delivery:

"Good afternoon. I would like to update people on what's going on, on the roads and streets, in the courts, and also talk about what isn't happening during Day 2 of the Illegal Selfish Strike of 2005.

"Over the last two days, we have seen New Yorkers doing what they have to do to keep our City going. They have stood on long lines to get on commuter trains; they have crowded onto ferries; they have carpooled with strangers. They are brave, resilient and determined.

"The morning commute was heavier than yesterday according to information from our Department of Transportation. We had heavier car volume on the East River crossings as well as higher occupancy per car.

"The commuter rail system is absorbing additional passengers and helping them get to work and school. This morning was the first time the LIRR and Metro North had their contingency plans in effect which means they have added trains and shuttle service. Stations where people can get service are linked through, which also has the City's complete contingency plan on it.

"We had more people travel to work on ferries. There was an increase in passengers on the Staten Island Ferry, which actually carried more people than normal. Capacity has been increased at the Brooklyn Army Terminal Ferry Landing. There was also strong demand at Hunters Point in Long Island City.

"I am concerned about reports of fare gouging by taxi drivers. We have sent inspectors out to investigate and I encourage anyone who has encountered this to call 311 and report it.

"As I indicated yesterday, we are modifying the contingency plan slightly as needs adjust.

"5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, which previously had been open primarily to emergency vehicles from 5am to 8pm, will now only have one lane reserved for those vehicles and the other lanes will be open to general traffic. The City has also lifted HOV restrictions at two Staten Island parking lots, at Staten Island Yankee Stadium and at Cromwell Recreation Center.

"So it looks like more people made it into work this morning, which is a good thing but it can't even begin to make up for the loss of our mass transit system.

"City service delivery remains strong. Our public safety workers continue to do a great job. As with any event of this magnitude, the Police Department shoulders much of the burden. They are out there at checkpoints, securing transit facilities, and directing traffic.

"The Fire Department, aware that more congestion could slow response times, has increased manning on some engines and put more personnel and equipment in densely populated areas.

"911 call volume is slightly above normal but response times have held steady. 311 call volume is higher than average. 311 set a new record yesterday with over 240,000 calls.

"Like yesterday, schools opened two hours late although attendance, while still below normal, is 10% higher than yesterday. With the exception of PSAL games, all after-school activities are happening.

"But make no mistake about it, although the City is holding up well under the circumstances, this illegal, selfish strike is hurting New York and hurting people.

"The effects are rippling through our economy. When tourism is affected, Broadway gets hurt. When people can't get here, our restaurants don't fill up. Many restaurants are reporting a 40% decrease in business. Attendance at some museums is down 80%. Delis need fresh food to sell and are being forced to close early or aren't opening at all.

"Retail continues to be crippled. When deliveries don't make in, goods don't make it on the shelves, shoppers can't shop and stores close. Crowds are down 50% according to the Fifth Avenue BID. Shopping hubs that rely on mass transportation are getting hammered: the Fulton Mall has stores where business is down 90%. Fordham Road, one of Bronx's premier retail hubs, has experienced a drop of 60% in sales.

"Even more important than the economic effects, are the consequences to people's health.

"The young and the elderly should not spend extended amounts of time in freezing cold weather. Also alarming is that some people have had to delay chemotherapy or radiation treatments, because they haven't been able to travel to clinics or hospitals. You can delay one treatment, but not more than that.

"The New York Blood Center has declared a state of emergency. Blood centers are unable collect products and blood drives have been canceled.

"Many home health aides, who care for the elderly and ill, have been unable to get to work to help people who rely on them to take their medication and get through the day.

"Without devoted employees walking to get to work, the situation would be even worse. Robert Payne, who works at Beth Israel Hospital, walked 6 ½ miles from Brooklyn to get to work. He is indicative of the dedication of the city's healthcare workers and their unbelievable commitment to patient care because patient care can't be compromised.

"This illegal and selfish strike needs to end now.

"Today in court, we are asking for a Temporary Restraining Order against the TWU and for the Judge to again order the TWU back to work. Disobeying this order would make the individual members of the unions liable for serious financial penalties. This is separate from the MTA suit which is costing the TWU $1 million a day.

"In regards to that legal action, TWU members need to be aware that they already lose two days pay for each day they strike.

"Yesterday, I was pleased to see that Mike O'Brien, the President of the TWU International, asked all members to return to work and that he and the international union do not condone this illegal and selfish strike. I urge all members to heed his instructions.

"Many MTA workers did show up yesterday. They will get paid and will not have to pay these severe fines. I would like to thank them for doing the right thing. They deserve all of our thanks.

"Roger Toussaint and the TWU board have sought to portray this strike as a fight for working people. That argument doesn't hold water. Working people are being hurt. Busboys are getting hurt; garment industry workers are being hurt; owners of mom and pop businesses are being hurt. No one is being spared.

"What frauds, claiming to be a champion of working families when their illegal actions are costing New Yorkers their livelihoods. They should stop trying to pass blame, stop their lame attempt to spin their indefensible actions and get back to work.

"In case they don't and this strike continues, we'll get through it. We won't cave, quit or surrender. New Yorkers always rise to the challenge."

Edward Skyler/Jordan Barowitz

(212) 788-2958