Lisa Chow is the economics reporter at WNYC. She tries to explore in her stories surprising aspects of New York’s many economies—in plain view or hidden, in neighborhoods or sectors.
My trip to John F. Kennedy airport on Monday involved weighing one bad option against another: getting into a cab at 10 a.m. this morning when the roads hadn’t been completed plowed (the car service operator told me it would be take at least two hours, possibly three or four, from downtown Brooklyn) or taking the A train, which was traveling as far as the Euclid Avenue station in East New York.
I choose the latter.
Emerging from the subway station, I realized pretty quickly that I was stuck.
More than a foot of snow covered the streets of East New York. An MTA bus driver told me the last time a plow came through was nearly 12 hours before. The car service a few blocks away didn’t have any cars. The buses had stopped running, and the buses that were on the street were stuck in the snow.
I hopped into one of those stuck buses, which was keeping a half a dozen other stranded travelers warm. Their flights to San Francisco and Europe had all been canceled or seriously delayed. One 23-year-old French student told me her flight to Paris had been postponed until December 31, although her mother was able to get her on another flight departing at 8 p.m. (It turns out that flight never left the ground.)
The bus driver, Courtney Calvert, told me he had been stuck in the snow for more than 12 hours - since 9 p.m. the previous evening - and was waiting for city workers to help dig him out.
One traveler in the bus, Martie Day, was accompanied by her dog, Charlie. She had come to New York City to sell Christmas trees for the month and was heading to San Francisco for another job, which was starting in five days. "Trying to get to the airport is my main goal in life right now," said Day, who's 25 and from Kansas City. "I can probably get a flight. If I have to pay extra - $1,000 - I'll do it. I just want to get out of here."
Day's determination is what ultimately saved the group.
After two hours, we all bundled up to head back outdoors to the A train, after hearing rumors that it was now traveling to the airport. The rumors were wrong.
So we trekked through the snow for about a half a mile, sticking together as a group. A man driving a four-wheel-drive Nissan Titan yelled out to Day, offering her a ride for $50. She hopped in and was able to convince the entrepreneurial taxi cab driver, who was freelancing in his personal car after his shift, to drive us all to the airport for $150.
We crowded into the car - all seven of us - and within 10 minutes, we arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport.
For me, I had gotten to my destination. For the others, the day was still early.
At the end of a day of reporting from JFK about airport delays, I took a cab home. The A train still wasn't running.