Chris Dara boarded the 7:45 a.m. Manhattan-bound train from Huntington Tuesday, armed with a large hot chocolate, comfortable walking shoes and a 20-pound backpack slung over his shoulders.
The 25-year-old systems engineer from Greenlawn prepared for a day of walking. In his job, he sometimes takes the subway up to 12 times a day.
"I thought someone was going to come in and hammer it all out," Dara said of the city bus and subway worker strike, as the LIRR train headed west toward Penn Station.
Dara had a 9 a.m. appointment at 551 Fifth Avenue, a client awaiting a software installation. He had planned to take the 1 or 9 to Times Square, then catch the N or the R. He had watched the news Monday night, flipping between channels to see if there was going to be a strike.
Tuesday, his morning rush-hour LIRR train moved quickly through western Suffolk and Nassau counties with many seats remaining open until the approach to Jamaica.
The double-decker diesel slowed to a crawl at 8:20 a.m. He looked out the window at the hundreds of commuters lined up along the street in Jamaica before the train reached the platforms. Thousands of stranded Queens straphangers used the LIRR yesterday instead.
"Disaster," he said, shaking his head at the throngs of commuters waiting below the station. Scheduled to change at Jamaica for Penn, he boarded a westbound electric train packed with commuters in every seat and stood for the remainder of the 23-minute trip to Penn.
At 8:36, the express pulled slowly out of Jamaica and a conductor announced that there were 20 to 25 minute system-wide delays. Dara e-mailed his customer on the Blackberry and received this response: "No worries. Take your time."
The train stopped and again started at 8:39. It finally reached Penn Station at 8:59 -- 11 minutes after its scheduled arrival time.
Dara headed with the crush of commuters to the escalator, which was not working and climbed the stairs. Penn Station was awash in people, some carried scooters, some wore sneakers and some tried to make it through the throng that had stopped bottle-neck at the exits. Passengers lined up at ticket machines.
Heading in front of the ticket office area, Dara made a quick right and moved toward the 7th Avenue escalators, but the crowds were thick there too.
"We're going this way," he said. Police directed traffic up the escalator and Dara made his way to a staircase that led to the side exit near Madison Square Garden. He ended up at Seventh Avenue and 32nd Street.
But, along the way, he lost a glove. He walked to Macy's to buy a new pair of black Timberland mittens.
He continued on to Fifth Avenue, turning past Lord & Taylor where Christmas music played and a few tourists stopped to ponder the decorated windows. Pedestrians lined the sidewalks while Fifth Avenue was quiet with only a few buses passing by.
By 9:32, he arrived at his destination.
"Yes it's cold, but it's not so bad. You get to walk around the city," he said.
Long ride for one LIRR rider
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