So there will be a Christmas in New York after all, as the transit workers’ strike has ended and subways and buses are scheduled to run on time Friday morning. Still, the whole experience should remind New Yorkers – who apparently need reminding – what a destructive force public sector unions can be to the effective operation and safety of a city, let alone the morale of its residents. At least the Mayor and Governor are insisting that there will be no amnesty granted on the fines levied against union members. We’ll see if that holds up. But of course the strikers should have been fired en masse, anyway.
Perhaps the worst effect of the NY transit strike, though, is the way it served to demonstrate, once again, how vulnerable cities are to the slightest change in their ecosystems. Whether with a natural disaster, like Katrina, or a man-made economic one, like the NY transit strike, 2005 has offered more helpful demonstrations to terrorists about how many different ways there are to disable urban centers. Not that the terrorists will start a local – that would be a sight – but it must be instructive to see how debilitating a shut down of public transit is, over just three days, in the nation’s largest city. The much-heralded city contingency plan, which had its merits, did not prevent mob scenes and confusion all around the city’s transit hubs. What an appealing and vulnerable target.
Pardon my skepticism so close to the holiday. I lived in Manhattan too long not to think that the city is living on borrowed time, as far as another attack is concerned. That it would willfully and needlessly put itself at risk with this idiotic strike doesn’t inspire confidence for the future.