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Strike Shuts Down New York Public Transport

New Yorkers and commuters headed home, mostly on foot, Tuesday evening after the first day of the city's first major public transportation strike in a quarter of a century.

New Yorkers hailed taxicabs, joined carpools and rode bicycles, but mostly they walked to work Tuesday as the transit workers union shut down the city's public transportation system.

During days of negotiations, union and transit officials came close to reaching an agreement on wage issues, but they could not resolve differences concerning pension plans and health care for new workers.

State law prohibits strikes by public employees who face stiff fines for every day they do not work.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimates that the strike, during the busy holiday season, will cost city about $400 million a day. The usually unflappable mayor lashed out angrily at the transport union.

"From what we have been able to learn, the economic consequences of the strike range from severe to devastating, depending on the business," said Mr. Bloomberg. "Retail, especially in lower Manhattan, has been hit the hardest. Hundreds of stores have not been able to open and some that did had practically no business. Our hotels are getting hit with cancellations and the airline industry is on edge. All of this because of an illegal strike."

The strike has left millions of New Yorkers and daily commuters looking for alternate ways to move around the city in cold weather. But many New Yorkers interviewed on the street took the strike in stride.

1ST PERSON: "You have to have two things: you have to have patience. You have to have stamina. If you are a New Yorker you are just a survivor. What can I tell you?"

2ND PERSON: "I usually take the subway and I usually go the gym in the morning. This is more work than going to the gym in the morning. But it is all right."

One business made the most of the situation, sending 25 employees in Santa Claus outfits to greet walkers with items to relieve stress and ward off the cold.

EMPLOYEE: "It is an oscillating massage belt. It provides heat and it energizes and soothes your muscles. I think people are going to enjoy it, because they are going to be really stressed out today."

The city put a contingency plan into effect, limiting single occupancy vehicles, encouraging carpools and requesting taxicabs to pick up multiple passengers.