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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

December 26, 2005

It's A Striiiikkkke!!!!

As New York went into the countdown to Christmas, the Grinches decided to descend upon the city that never sleeps and reward it with a sour apple: the TWU, the Transit Workers Union, went out on strike.

As I had been traveling, I hadn't paid attention in the week before to the gathering storm, though an ominous e-mail the day before my return to New York from my apartment building's management aroused my concerns. No strike was called on Monday though Tuesday morning brought what had seemed improbable: a transit strike, the first in twenty five years.

I woke to the morning news filled with images of people streaming on foot across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, including our Mayor, Billionaire Bloomberg, who looked very natty in his jeans and expensive leather jacket, walking in from Brooklyn along with everybody else.

I cancelled meetings and stayed in the apartment that doubles as my office, watching the news until it was time for me to go to my two o'clock meeting, which was thankfully within walking distance, as was my 3:30. The five was cancelled as there wasn't any way I was going to attempt getting down near Wall Street.

My e-mail box was cluttered with emergency announcements of cancelled Christmas Parties [ooops! Holiday Parties, in our politically correct times].

Generally, the city was mildly cranky but well-behaved. A populace that had absorbed 9/11 didn't even begin to let this get under their skin. People grumped and groaned and seemed pretty well behaved overall and as it was eloquently by one: at least it's not a tragedy. In other words, it's not a terrorist attack, the grim fear that breathes in the city every day.

People seemed pretty evenly divided as to who were the bad guys, the Union or the MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority]. Neither group looks very good to me. The MTA has been under scrutiny by everyone since rates were raised and there seemed to be some shuffling of dollars [in the billions]. The Union looks intransigent about what many New Yorkers seem to think of as a good deal. If anything got under the city's skin, it was the insistence that 55 remain the retirement age. In a world where everyone I know is wondering if they will EVER be able to retire, getting out at 55 with 50% of your last year's salary seemed to be a bit too much of a good thing.

The following morning, Mayor Bloomberg was back on the Bridge and day two had begun, crankiness up and good behavior slightly down; temperatures were down, too, and wind was up, making the morning walk even brisker than the day before.

The PATH train [the one that marries New York City and New Jersey] actually runs from the World Trade Center site up to Herald Square [who knew?]. By Tuesday, this secret was out and the PATH folks had systemized the entrance at the WTC site and controlled the chaos in order to prevent unnecessary trips out to New Jersey. As I descended on Tuesday, it was eerie to be descending into “the pit' as I cannot shake the cold which enters my bones there and which has nothing to do with temperature.

According to Mr. Bloomberg the strike is costing the city at least a billion dollars and is particularly hard on small business owners who make up to 50% of their yearly revenue in December. Once into mid-town, walking is easy it's just getting to mid-town could take four hours.

As I write this, they're declaring a truce and it appears the TWU will go back to work while negotiations proceed having a judge declare the strike illegal and rumors of union arrests had little to do with the breakthrough, I'm sure; it is after all, the time of good will to all men.

What has continued to amaze me and continues to enhance my respect for New York is the general good grace with which everyone accepted and adapted. The resilience of this living organism called "The Big Apple" amazes me and occasionally gives me some hope for the human race.