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Looming strike can't get Jersey riders down

Saturday, December 17, 2005 By KEN THORBOURNE JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
 

New Yorkers might have been Nervous Nellies about their morning commute yesterday, but for many PATH train riders in Jersey City, life was good.

"I was only worried that I'd be the only one at work today," said Jersey City resident Freda Hickman, who was awaiting a PATH train at the Grove Street station. "I was teasing everybody at work about (them) getting to work." The transit hubbub, caused by a threatened strike by New York City transit workers that didn't materialize, barely registered on Omar Merhom's radar. Asked if he was following the dramatic showdown between the transit workers union and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Merhom replied, "Not really."

Merhom, a Jersey City resident who works in finance, said he normally walks to his office from the PATH's World Trade Center station. Both sides in the tense contract negotiations had set 12:01 a.m. yesterday as a deadline to come to an agreement but yesterday, after a long night of talks that did not yield an agreement, the union decided to extend the deadline to 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Most PATH passengers interviewed yesterday said they walk to work once they get into New York. Yosette Ramirez, a fashion designer, was an exception. If there was a strike, she said she would have had to walk from 33rd Street and Sixth Avenue to 40th Street and Seventh Avenue, seven blocks and one long avenue. "I guess I could walk to 40th Street," she said. "I've just been lazy." At the Park and Ride in North Bergen, on a service road off Routes 1&9 last night, most commuters getting off buses and into their cars were relieved that the transit workers did not strike. "My Plan B was to take the train to Hoboken and take the PATH from there," said Bruce Goodman, of Montclair, who takes a subway to his job after arriving in New York. "Plan C was to go on vacation."

Some PATH riders coming home during the evening rush said they sensed a slowdown on the city buses and trains they rode. "But it (the slowdown) wasn't a bad as the seven days or so leading up to today," said Dana Callan-Farley, who works on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

For Felicia Guglielmi, the PATH figured into her back-up plan. Guglielmi lives in Brooklyn and works for a chemical engineering association at 34th Street and Park Avenue. In anticipation of a strike, she bunked Thursday night with her friend and co-worker, Jersey City resident Stephanie Viola. "I don't want to walk," Guglielmi said, pointing out that she has no intention of following New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his promised walk across the Broooklyn Bridge. Feeling happy on the PATH train around midnight Thursday, Viola decided to take her own informal poll to find out who passengers were siding with in the transit dispute. Viola confessed a bias toward the workers. Asked how her fellow travelers responded, she said, "They weren't really feeling me."

Journal staff writer Jennifer Mosscrop contributed to this report 2005 The Jersey Journal

http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-0/113481431246360.xml&coll=3 

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