This morning, my fiancee and I were discussing the horrible post-Sandy situation in Staten Island, how people don’t have places to sleep, how kids don’t have hot food to eat, and how they’re still pulling bodies from houses. Since he’s a freelancer and his schedule is a lot less “manically hunched over a laptop for like 11 hours a day” than mine, he decided to spend the day on Staten Island helping out. Except, when he tried to get across the bridge, the MTA bus driver wouldn’t take him.
My husband-elect, who I’ll call C because my blogging has already embarrassed him enough, was responding to a call for “cars and bike deliveries” on the Staten Island Recovers website, meaning he’d be going from door to door checking on people, or delivering meals to people who can’t leave their houses.
This next part of the story involves boring New York City logistics. We live in a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Greenwood, which is almost halfway between Manhattan and Staten Island. A couple miles to the south of us is the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island. While there are no bike lanes or walking lanes on the bridge, there are buses that can take people back and forth between the boroughs, which are currently operational with some route modifications due to storm damage. There are currently no trains connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan in operation, and it’s about 8 transportation-less miles in the opposite direction of Staten Island for us to get to the now-operational Staten Island Ferry, which leaves from the southern tip of Manhattan.
Just to give you an idea of how things are oriented, here’s a map. (Or, me demonstrating our art director Jim Cooke’s invaluable contributions to Jezebel by showcasing my own terrible graphic manipulation talents.)
So, to review: there is no way to get from Brooklyn to the ferry in Manhattan unless you ride your bike all the way north through Brooklyn and over the Brooklyn bridge to the ferry, which will in turn bring you back south.
So, C thought that he’d have better luck getting to Staten Island if he took the train south to a bus terminal near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and then took his bike on one of the buses that crosses the bridge. They allow bikes on buses in Chicago, plus you’d think that during a time of DIRE NEED, even if bikes weren’t usually allowed on buses in New York City, the driver would make a sensible exception.
Nope. After pleading and reasoning with the driver (“They need bike delivery people on Staten Island and this is LITERALLY the only way for me to get there with my bike without riding like 10-something miles for about an hour in the opposite direction!”), the driver simply turned him away. Rules are rules, after all. Because he didn’t want to leave his new-ish bike locked up at a bus depot, he returned home thwarted.
Okay, a few things: I get that the ferry is running again. But understand that it’s incredibly out of the way to get from our house to the ferry without a car. And I understand why a bus driver might not want to allow bikes on a bus. But we’re dealing with a goddamn natural disaster here, and people need help. Not tomorrow, now. A lot of New Yorkers (and, specifically Brooklynites) depend on bikes to get around, and could offer help to Staten Island if only there was a way to get from Brooklyn to the “forgotten borough” with their bikes without getting harangued and hassled by unyielding MTA employees on a power trip. Shouldn’t public transportation employees be aiding, rather than blocking efforts of citizens to help?