Have you checked out WNYC’s interactive Transit Time NYC tool? It gives you a “heat map” showing how long it takes to get to various places on the subway from any starting point in the city.
WNYC released this feature earlier this month. Good timing – instead of explaining how far Mill Island is from the subway, I can just show you this. You’ll note that it takes at least 120 minutes to get to downtown Brooklyn if you’re restricted to foot and train.
The article that accompanied Transit Time NYC’s release was titled In Bloomberg’s New York, The Poor Move Further Out, Lengthening Commutes. So based on distance from the subway, you might expect Mill Island to be the poorest neighborhood in the borough.
Au contraire, mon ami. Just check out the current listings from Trulia:
Where am I going with this? Well, in any community, there’s bound to be many residents who rely on public transit. And when their lone connection to the subway – the bus – isn’t running, it’s a huge burden.
Here are four strikes that, in effect, shut out the neighborhood.
10 days in 2005
The most recent example came in January 2005, when 600 drivers and workers at the Spring Creek Depot went on strike. The strike isolated Mill Basin, forcing those needing to get anywhere to rely on expensive livery cabs.
The Spring Creek Depot was home at the time to a private, MTA-subsidized corporation called Command Bus Company. The MTA had been gunning to bring Command into its fold, but the employees there (members of Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 1181 & 1061) were concerned about benefits.
The strike ended after ten days. Mayor Bloomberg called the strike “a major and unnecessary inconvenience” for southern Brooklyn and Queens.
3 days in 1992
In June, Command and four other companies left the area high and dry for three days, causing headaches for 225,000 commuters.
Not so bad, I suppose – especially compared with two walkouts in the 1970s.
77 days in 1971
[M]TA wages were 10% higher than those of Pioneer Bus Company, which ran the routes at the time. Pioneer brass complained they couldn’t match that with the with just a 25-cent fare. After three weeks, fed-up commuters tried to intervene, but the nickel increase wasn’t approved for another month and a half.
140 days in 1979
This time, the employees got greedy, allegedly demanding a 40% increase in their wages and benefits – even though they were already the same as the TA. The union later claimed it wanted a revised schedule, more sick days, and a shorter labor agreement.
Pioneer shut its doors on June 4. They would never open again.
The TA stepped up in early August, extending the B-2 bus to Kings Plaza – still a decent walk for those on Mill Island.
Union officials were pissed. One warned that “there will be a big labor problem” unless the TA hired the striking Pioneer workers instead of private hands.
Things got heated – to the point where the buses required police escorts. In mid-August, someone launched a “steel shuffleboard quoit” through a B-2 window, injuring three. The Transport Workers Union, the rival to the ATU and the union of TA workers, ordered its buses out of Mill Basin.
Finally, in October, Pioneer found a buyer for its 80 buses for $2 million.
The new owner was to receive a $1 million subsidy from the city over two years, and was allowed to raise the express-bus fare to $1.75 from $1.50. They pleased union officials by hiring mostly former Pioneer workers.
And who was the buyer? You guessed it – Command Bus Company.