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Bus Strike Strands Rockaways Families Displaced by Sandy

By  Alan Neuhauser and Nicholas Rizzi | January 16, 2013 3:47pm 

THE ROCKAWAYS — Thousands of families displaced and devastated by Hurricane Sandy around the city were left stranded by the school bus strike that started Wednesday morning.

Parents from Breezy Point, the Rockaways and Staten Island, many still sheltering as far away as Brooklyn and Manhattan as they rebuild their homes, were forced to miss or arrive late to work, driving more than a dozen miles in some cases to bring their kids to school in the storm-ravaged neighborhoods.

"We're all carpooling. We're coming in from all over the place," 49-year-old sanitation worker Danny McLaren said after dropping off two of his children at P.S. 114 in Belle Harbor.

Since the storm, he has been living in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife and three children in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — some 14 miles away — and, when not working the 4-to-midnight shift at the Department of Sanitation, labors to rebuild their Breezy Point home.

"They've already been through enough," he told DNAinfo.com New York. "This is really bad for us."

Some Breezy Point residents took drastic measures to take their children to school. One man, hurrying to get to work in a red Jeep Laredo after driving his two children to P.S. 114, said he bought the SUV the night before.

"I lost the car in the storm," he said. "I was going to buy a new one anyway, but this expedited things."

He and other parents stopped outside an entrance normally reserved for school buses. Hurrying to hand out backpacks and lunch boxes before speeding off to work, many turned to their children to find out what time school ended and where they should park for pick-up.

"I got three different kids in three different schools. It's kind of a juggernaut for me and my wife," said FDNY firefighter resident Gene McEnroe, 45, who is living in temporary housing in Breezy Point. Despite the challenges presented by the strike, he said he sympathized with the bus drivers' union.

"I think it's the mayor just trying to break the unions," he said, adding that he'd be willing to drive his children to school for months if it meant better working conditions for the drivers. "If I have to — not that I like it — but if I have to."

Bus driver Gaysee Davis, however, was less sympathetic. A driver for Thomas Bus Company and a member of one of the non-striking unions, she said she understood why drivers had walked off the job, but opposed the strike's timing.

“It hasn’t yet been three months after Sandy," Gaycee, 43, told DNAinfo.com after dropping off six elementary special-needs students at P.S. 114. "I understand you want to strike, but wait to do it."

Arturo Lopez, a dad from Grant City, Staten Island, whose house sustained damage from the storm, agreed.

Forced by Sandy to move more than 20 minutes away from his 6-year-old daughter Karen's school, P.S. 38, he drove her Wednesday morning before heading to his job at a restaurant.

"It was really hard. She has to get up really early, and I have to bring her to school. It's definitely no good," he said. "First the hurricane, they picked the wrong time. Hopefully they fix it soon."