Slices of "The Big Apple" This is New York City Wit, Reflections & Amusements: Cliff Strome



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Those who wait for trains on the platforms generally are gathered at the center of platforms and will therefore enter a mid-range car. There are ten cars per train; some have less. The obvious result is that the center cars are the most crowded and the end cars are sparse. People want to be in the center of the platform in off hours, there’s safety in numbers. During rush hours it makes little sense. More sophisticated riders opt for car 1, 2,3 or 8, 9 and 10 to put them at the desired end of the station they seek to exit. Our subway trains are over 600 feet long and that’s longer than two football fields! Doesn’t it make sense to enter a less crowded car and enable your diaphragm to do its job?

Backpacks are another major challenge for subway riders. Imagine being in a crowded subway train and the person standing next to you does an about-face! Whissssh! You get smacked with a 20-pound backpack across your back, front or side. It has literally become a part of their anatomy without consciousness. This new marvel of modern life is a terrific convenience for many however, they should be sold with instructions, don’t you think? Will they ever go away, time will tell! Keep them off the subways and let the backpackers head for the hills; like “take a hike” up a mountain! They’re new, backpacks on subways. Let’s add shovels, picks, ropes and portable gas stoves too! It’s like people have become turtles or camels. They’ve grown storage space on their backs! Front packs would be better; at least the backpacker would see what’s going on in front of them. Yes, frontpacks!! It is inevitable that someday they’ll be prohibited no doubt by Homeland Security. With all the time, effort and money spent to ensure subway safety, backpacks are the Achilles heel in the equation. One backpack can . . . I don’t want to go there!

How about those suitcases and duffle bags on the A train out to JFK? I shutter at the thought.

At times entering a subway station and entering the turnstile can be like a medieval jousting match. Often some people, about to swipe their metro cards, are faced suddenly with someone coming from the opposite direction racing toward them seeking to exit the station. You wait, they crunch through and you attempt to swipe again and perhaps this time you’ll get in. It’s most discourteous of course, but it is somewhat rude when you are about to pay for your ride and someone exiting pushes the turnstile in the opposite direction and cancels out your fare. Wouldn’t it make sense for them to wait a moment for you to enter? What train do they have to catch, The Twentieth Century Limited? I guess we’re all in a hurry and “my time is more valuable than yours and your fare doesn’t mean a thing to me” kind of logic. Those people are truly exceptional. We still can learn a thing or two from Parisians whose subway system provides separate places to enter and exit. Huh huh huh, viva la France! Rubber rimmed wheels too on subway trains, nice and quiet!

Recently, I see people jumping over the turnstiles to avoid paying their fare. That’s something that I haven’t seen in years! Some pull the mechanical barrier bar toward them half way and create enough space for them to squeeze through. Others duck beneath the barrier to gain entry and others jump over the barrier bar. We can do a better job of reducing this. If you see this happen, be smart and keep your mouth shut. They should be arrested!

Recently, I did react when I saw a tall woman, about thirty-five years old, well dressed, step over the turnstile and proceed to walk downstairs to catch a downtown local. I shouted, “Officer, she’s gone to the downtown level.” I walked quickly, a safe distance behind her and as I got to the lower level I saw her stepping quickly weaving through the crowd. “Right here officer, that’s her!” I shouted. She quickened her pace and darted out of the station from the other end and disappeared. There was no officer; I wanted her to think twice about doing that again.

As a citizen of this great City I want to do all I can to thwart such those who feed of this community. These “gate-crashers” are the vermin and losers that threaten our lives, feed off us and ought to be punished for their ill deeds.

In the late afternoon, herds of homeward bound school children flock into the subway. In New York City many adolescent students travel long distances to attend school. Voluminous numbers of students take the subway the same time and depending on which subway line you happen to be riding, you are likely to encounter herds of students who are loud, obscene and very bothersome. There should be a code of conduct taught in school and at home. Roving patrols of trained personnel should be enforcing those codes and confiscate offenders metro cards or issue summonses to their parents who ultimately are responsible for their children’s misconduct. Teachers who are on their way home at the same time should be required and given the authority to address this problem, as part of their jobs. They’re the professionals who are trained to control children. Most of us work an eight-hour day. Why shouldn’t they too? Could it be the union and politically intimidated politicians? Or, perhaps they make it up by staying up nights correcting exams and students homework.

Just about the most annoying thing is arriving on an express train into a station as the local train across the platform, the train you need to board to complete your trip, is stopped with the doors opened. As soon as the express train stops, and its doors open, the local’s doors close and leaves the station with hundreds of people who have just emerged from the express and are left standing on the platform and are forced to wait for the next local.

The conductors who do that use these opportunities to express their anger and as a result they detain thousands of straphangers. It’s a “power for power” thing. They are paid very well for what they do. With all the benefits they receive to do the job they must cut out that mistreatment. Such chutzpah! Who’s monitoring that?

And if not, why not? If we’re doing such a great job monitoring terrorism then why not this! To me, this is a form of terrorism that’s here, it’s real and occurs thousands of times daily! Does the MTA have a system that monitors the amount of time commuters wait and if so do they attempt to fine tune performance to reduce waiting time? Do they tabulate the average waiting time for “straphangers”? Are there goals set as targets they seek to achieve? Why can’t, why won’t the MTA use a little imagination, power and concern, union or no union, to take care of that?

And finally, on a “good note” the vast majority of riders and MTA employees are polite, respectful and considerate. It doesn’t take more than a few to make a safe, inexpensive and fast ride an unpleasant experience.

There simply is no better way to move that volume of people fast, cheap and safely.

It’s the huge volume of people that make the subway exciting, as long as it doesn’t get too cozy. The glass is half “full” because looking at everyone, wondering what they’re thinking, each encapsulated within their own consciousness, daily lives, connected in time and space, vastly different looking, of so many cultures and languages, different dress and attire, all coming together, in the moment, enriching each other’s experience as we “fly” beneath the ground, under the streets of the greatest City on earth. This will always be a thrill for me.

You don’t agree? Ok! Leave New York City, go to Miami for one year and when you return you’ll yearn for the sound of the subways, “Stand clear of the closing doors” will be the best sound you’ve ever heard. If you do not agree then look for an apartment in Homestead, Florida or Main Street Podunk, Iowa and die of boredom. Well, it’s not that bad out there is it? For the true New Yorker, we’d rather live in 400 square feet of space then give up our beloved City. Wouldn’t you?

Of the two, those who hate and those who love the subway, I’m among those who love it, despite the hate side of the equation. The benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. What matters most is attitude, which is true of most imperfect things that we all experience in life. It’s not a perfect world and providing 5.5 million rides on an average weekday is a very tall order, especially for a government agency. Taken with a grain of salt, a ride on the subway in New York City is not a bad thing! Try it sometime, you just may find yourself on the love side of the equation. You’ll get to where you are going faster, cheaper and statistically safer. You can’t beat it with a stick and hold this thought: How much gasoline would the “straphangers” burn if they drove like the rest of the country, polluting the atmosphere, wasting time, sending money overseas, and becoming fatter? Ride on New York City! Ride on! “Stand clear of the closing doors!” And always remember, that fully one-half of all the energy, gas and oil, that is saved in this country due to mass transit, is saved right here in New York City by riders of The MTA!

The United Boroughs of New York City

The People’s Republic of New York City, The New York City Union, The Federation of New York City, or perhaps New York City, LLC; are just a few of the names that could rename New York City, if it were to be transformed into an independent republic. I like just plain ol’ Gotham, The Big Apple Republic, The Empire City, Global City and The Newer York, too.

“Let me be perfectly clear.” Who said that before? I intend no treasonous act against The United States of America nor do I intend to encourage the next Civil War nor, am I advocating the succession of this City from the glorious and well-managed State of New York whose motto is Excelsior, translation, “We’re outa money!”

Consider these, only The Bronx is conterminous with the continental United States. We’re more akin to Europe than the heartland in innumerable ways, politically out of synch with most of the nation, if you will. We send a lot more money to Washington and Albany then they return to us. We’re the most diverse society in the country; we are the cultural and financial center of the country, producing over 7% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States and possess less than 3% of the population. We go to the beat of a different drum and possess a unique perspective that defines us as much more liberal, accepting, non-judgmental, less dogmatic, more embracing and forward thinking then the rest of the country, my opinion, debatable certainly!

We are New York City and stand out and apart from the values, perspectives, gun toting, “stand your ground” prejudices, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, mores and roots that define many Americans who reside in the rest of the country. Examples abound!

The advantages to New York City would be enormous if we were a separate country, or even state. Fiscally we’d be a lot richer by billions annually. We’d even be able to step up like China, Japan and India and lend money to the United States, hum, but would we? We would probably opt out; we’re too smart for that trap. At the rate The United States is going, I’m sure Goldman Sachs (should be renamed Saks of Gold-Man”!) would find better deals for themselves, and us of course. Banks would invest in our New York City dollars by the ton. Our surplus would be spent on ourselves, to educate, house and provide healthcare for our citizens. We’d rebuild our infrastructure faster and better then what is now possible. For example, the Second Avenue Subway would have been a reality by now and built with express tracks too! We’d provide even more recreational space for our people, even rid ourselves of bedbugs, renovate our subways, perhaps some ceiling painting is overdue, extend lines further to stimulate more growth, Red Hook, Riverdale, Midtown West, etc., and we’d computerize the entire system reducing costs further.

The “Westway” idea that died in the early 1980’s would become the next Brooklyn Bridge type project, a tunnel highway on the Westside like it was supposed to be, but they didn’t have the money! Well, you do the math, put the value on all that cement covered real estate from 57th Street down to Battery Place and lay that road beneath the surface! Access to the water, greenway and the value of that real estate could be in the hundreds of billions, even a trillion or two. Let’s lease some tunnel boring equipment from the Germans or Indians and create wealth that’s just sitting there. It’ll happen. It’s just a matter of time. That’s what New York City can do and not Washington, D.C. the guys who are going to force us to spend millions to redo all our street signs because they’re not capital letters or they’re not the right fonts. You didn’t hear about that?

How about all the chatter about the very necessary additional Hudson River train tunnel? What are we waiting for? Pay now or pay more later? Mr. Christie, you’re a nice guy but put your nose into it! Hey, let’s regret that we built the Garden State Parkway, Pulaski Skyway, NJ Turnpike, Meadowlands, PATH train tunnels and all that! Okay, let’s disable New Jersyite’s from getting to work in New York City and let them work in Paterson, Newark and Camden. No new tunnel, no new jobs, it’s as simple as that.

Presently, our public transit system is the least subsidized, based on average fare paid per ride by rider, of any large city in The United States! Why? Isn’t ours the most vital? Doesn’t ours save the most energy? Doesn’t ours provide the most benefit for the environment? Wake up New York State and Washington, D.C. If our subways didn’t have express tracks, like most other cities, then New York City couldn’t have possibly grown as large. People would not have the time or the patience to spend twice the time getting to and from work. Brooklyn and Queens. Thought the City was crowded now, huh?

We’d streamline our government and all its agencies creating greater efficiency and providing more benefits for our citizens by rewarding or discarding, just like the real world of B U S I N E S S! You’ll never get all you ask for but step up to the plate with a handful of guts!

We’d build another airport; replace that rat hole, Penn Station. Senator Daniel P. Moynihan was so right, and we’d invest in those neighborhoods that need help, especially those that exist alongside the express lines that run into Manhattan, a natural catalyst to stimulate private sector participation.

The prisons would be upgraded, not only with better facilities but also with a well trained and supervised staff to provide job training, effective psychological rehabilitation and truly return many of those inmates back into society as productive citizens. Prison guards would be compensated based on results meaning, if the return rate of inmates to prison declined then bonuses would be paid. That makes sense because the net saving of keeping people out of prison is huge in blood, human potential and treasure. New York City would spend surplus dollars to fund additional research funds to our colleges and universities; find new cures for diseases, discover new medicines, lead the world in stem cell research, diabetes breakthroughs, AIDS treatment and create new revenue streams to improve the quality of life not only for ourselves but for the world as well. New York City would become one of the smallest countries in the world with an impact that rivals the largest. In fact, we do now, even with all the obstacles that limit greater success.

I’d love to see television commercials pushing new medications, medical devices and treatments that save lives and make money for New York City. The profits would be plowed back into additional research. We’d lead the world, not only in innovation and ideas but also in inventions, discoveries and quality of life advances. Since the most valuable real estate in New York City is the sky, we have all the space we need. In fact, New York City would buy dirt to expand its limits, we know what to do with landfill, and we’re darn good at that! Seventeen percent of Manhattan is landfill, that’s a pocket full of change, huh! Why not add another 17%? We’d import more dirt from New Jersey just like we did to build Central Park. Jersey’s got tons of dirt!

Don’t leave out the arts, performing, visual and music. We’d be the cultural Mecca of the world, perhaps we are, the dough would roll in and this City would be Nirvana to the square root of 6!

We would not need an army or Department of Defense. Our police department would suffice and do a far better job than our Homeland Security Officials or our CIA, NSA or FBI did on 911, right? Did you hear that they didn’t talk to each other or exchange information that may have, just may have thwarted the 911 attacks? Did you know that Bush 43 failed to take a look at the Daily Security Assessment Report that highlighted the perception that terrorists were planning to attack The United States with planes? Did you know that Iraq had nothing to do with 911? Sure you do! What a shame. Regime change, uhh, duh! Whose? Ours or theirs?

We share information, we are smarter and more in touch then the folks down there on the Potomac, should be in the Potomac, well most of them. Hey Bush was chopping wood! There ya go!

They have proven that they cannot protect us. Now, I just love how they take credit for “keeping us safe since 911” because there have not been any successful terrorist attacks since then. Ah, who was minding the store on 911? Hum? How much of our money was used for our defense? Do you recall on 911 that our Air Command or whatever name is used to describe our air defenses (SAC, NORAD?) sent two, TWO fighter planes out over the Atlantic Ocean! What was that about? How much planning and dollars went into that scenario? Where were they going to, Iceland?

Our importance to the entire world would entitle us protection by The United States of America and in the most effective possible way, just like on 911! Oh please! What were those people thinking about? You know, the ones who take the credit for keeping us safe? We certainly spent, or borrowed, a lot of money, got little or nothing back and borrow more to boot! Hey, that’s the American way! But, they loved to keep us scared, many of the folks along the Potomac. I wonder what that costs. It’s the Stanley Kubrick nightmare, the Dr. Strangelove scenario come alive, Act I. “Good job Brownie!” New Orleans didn’t have to be destroyed. Just another glitch, sure, way to go Army Corp of Engineers, yea! Let’s make sandcastles and play at the beach!

“We save you every day!” That’s the good ol’ USA! Our economic, cultural, research and development resources would create a consensus that would be unrivaled. The lack of a military force would put us in neutral territory similar to Switzerland and The Vatican. After all, we are the world; we would welcome trade and relationship with the entire world, except, a huh, “The Axis of Terror” and remain powerful by sheer force of our wealth, intellect, ideas, culture and results that we produce and provide. We’d export New York City and the world, they would welcome, need and breath us, lining our pockets creating a greater oasis of wealth, love and culture that the world has never known. Don’t agree? Who knows?

Our national anthem would be Sinatra’s New York, New York; “Start speadin’ the news” . . . written by Kander and Ebb, and we wouldn’t even have to change the lyrics to accommodate the new name! “I want to be a part of it, New York, New York!” Yes, a touch of nostalgia.

Sure, we’d have to establish our own post office, and that would be great fun! We’d have post offices that would be user friendly, fast and efficient. They would be privately owned, franchised, people would run to buy its stock and performance would be enhanced when it’s run like a business, not by those slowpokes, who are doing us a favor when we wait and wait. “Step up, step up, step up” No more grumpy, rude and slow counter people. They would sell us stamps with pictures of Seinfeld, Jackie Mason, Woody Allan, Calvin O. Butts III, DeWitt Clinton, John Roebling, Stanford White, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor, A. T. Stewart, R. H. Macy, August Belmont, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Joe Diageo, Lena Horne, Joe Namath and Leonard Bernstein, Marcus Garvey, Langston Hughes, Norman Mailer and Jeremy Lin to name a few. Everyday people such as bus drivers, firemen, nurses, The Doe Fund employees, even dogs, Gus and Ida, our two white polar bears in The Central Park Zoo would adorn our postage stamps. Ed Koch would look great on the face of a stamp with the phrase, “How my doin’?” Abe Beame and Fiorello LaGuardia would share a stamp because they were so short. The lions on the steps of the 42nd Street Library, Patience and Fortitude would be featured on large postage stamps and the skyscraper stamps would be long, very long. They would also be our symbols of strength such as the Bald Eagle is for The United States. Hey, maybe pit bulls, rats and raccoons would be best? We’d have Pale Male and Lola, our two Red tailed Hawks as our mascots. There’d be a building series, park series, the taxicab series and each borough would have their favorite politicians adorned as well; Stanley Friedman, Donald Manes, Meade Esposito, and all the rest of those public servants would be there for the lickin’, on stamps of course! Maybe a Mafia series too would be a “real killer” of the guys who got wacked?

Whose picture would be on our money? I suppose that Alexander Hamilton would be on the twenty, a nice boost off the ten-dollar bill and on the hundred I believe Jane Jacobs, Fiorello LaGuardia or DeWitt Clinton would be great choices. On the one-dollar bill may I suggest Boss Tweed, Gov. Spitzer, Robert Moses or Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, to serve as a constant reminder that we all mean well, right? Oh yes, we’d still have pennies and for those I’d suggest Bernie Madoff featured in low relief behind bars, just to promote the notion that scamming fellow New Yorkers will catch up with you in the end. I’d keep Jefferson on the nickel; after all, it was he who brokered the deal with Hamilton to move the nation’s capitol to Virginia, good move! Who wants those uniformed military types and wing tipped crooked politicians and military scammers, lobbyists and cronies flooding our streets? We’ve got enough problems with the Wall Street crew not to mention all those mid level bureaucrats and career politicians a few hundred miles south of us crowding our sidewalks.

New York City would pass a traffic congestion plan, such as the one vetoed by Albany’s self-serving politicians who fear that their constituents, who drive into Manhattan from the outer boroughs, would vote them out of office. The gall of trading cleaner air, less congestion and a more manageable city so that they can warm a seat in Albany for another two years is incredible, unconscionable. “Let ‘em drive cabs!”

This time we would succeed in reducing the snarling traffic in midtown Manhattan, raise more money for mass transit, clean up the air even more, thanks Mike, and put more Pedi cabs out there to provide rapid transit in Manhattan that would be environmentally beneficial. Don’t worry Sheldon Silver, only people from Staten Island vote for you, well most anyway! We’d provide Segways at key places for small change for people to get around and reduce the number of taxis, which by the way, change their shifts during rush hour when people need them most. That’s the first order of business, change taxi shift time. We are the “greenest” major city in The United States, producing the least carbon dioxide per person, “CO2 footprint”, into the atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be still greener! It’s a self-liquidating investment folks. Wake up! Fewer cars are a boost to our economy. Consider giving New Yorkers who get rid of their cars reduced fee annual metro cards based on the amount of miles they had been driving. That would help unclog the streets and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their cars, such as the sales tax, would be devoted to capital improvements of public transit.

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