Suman Jain had to choose between a two-hour subway ride and a 30-minute drive to take her special-needs daughter to school yesterday morning as a strike by more than 8,000 New York City school bus drivers and aides kicked off, affecting about 152,000 children.
Because of the strike over job protections, Jain, 49 of Forest Hills, has to chauffeur her fourth-grader to and from PS 88, an elementary school in Ridgewood, Queens.
"I really depend on the bus," said Jain, who ended up driving her daughter back home herself. "The drivers and matrons really know my daughter. I trust them. It's sad what's going on."
Jain, a teaching assistant, has forewarned her supervisors that she will need to come in late and leave early during the strike.
The strike shows no sign of a quick resolution, with the mayor and the drivers union entrenched in their respective stands on job security.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would not put an employee protection provision into bids for 1,000 new school bus contracts because such job measures were prohibited by a court. The union has contended that the protections would keep experienced drivers behind the wheel. The provision would require companies that win bids to hire workers from the losing companies.
The mayor urged Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union to accept the court ruling that deemed the protections illegal.
Until that's resolved, administrators gave students MetroCards for themselves and for their parents. But when many parents arrived at subway stations Wednesday -- among them Russell Langan and his wife -- they found their cards had not been activated. The city said the cards should be on Thursday.
"You have to cut corners until the strike ends. Leave work early. It's a mess," said Langan, of Ridgewood.
The strike didn't deter parents and students from getting to school: Overall, attendance was down less than 1 percent, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said, though attendance in the district for special-needs students was down 25 percent.
Judy Delvalle, 27, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, meanwhile, has to pick up two children from two schools while caring for a toddler.
"Thank God I'm not working at the moment, or who knows what we'd do," she said while walking to a friend's car at the end of the school day.
Delvalle's son Joey Torres is a special-needs student in the fifth grade at PS 88 in Ridgewood, while her other child attends PS 81 a few blocks away.
"It's really hard to juggle all of this by myself," she said.
Normally, Jose Resto's 9-year-old son takes the bus to school in Manhattan, but Wednesday Resto escorted his child to and from their home on Avenue D in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
"It's inconvenient for everybody who takes the bus, but with this weather, it's especially hard for us," added Pagan, holding his daughter's hand as they bustled across the street.