For 9 years I cursed the Long Island Railroad every morning and evening. When my wife and I were blessed with a beautiful daughter I became even more resentful since I often arrived home dog-tired, long after my girl was asleep. My wife had shorter hours, but made the same miserable commute. When my daughter was about to enroll in kindergarten, I realized I couldn’t continue that lifestyle. I fantasized about doing away with the commuter train AND the subway commute. Because neither my wife nor I have big ticket salaries, we checked out the public schools. We were pleasantly surprised to find that PS234 on Chambers Street is one of the most highly rated public schools in the City.
We sold our house, became renters and later became co-op owners in Lower Manhattan: near the Hudson River in Hanover Square. And I came home after a ten minute walk each day to a happy girl who was still awake.
Because I was now living the live/work lifestyle, I became involved in my daughter’s elementary school class. I never thought I would be a good teacher, but I got quite a thrill from taking an early lunch and teaching K-1 kids how to read. They seemed to like me and years later I will occasionally hear a shout on the street, “Hey Mike!” from one of my former students. PS 234 encouraged kids to call all grown-ups by their first names – whether it be it the mayor, the principal or any teacher. At first I found this annoying, but later I got used to it. Involvement in one’s community is much more possible in the “walk to work” lifestyle – even when work gets hectic.
Later, my wife, though jealous because she still had a subway commute, made peace with her Midtown commute. She became a fitness walker, impressively walking home more than four miles from Midtown in under an hour. She also discovered that she could bike along the East River within a few blocks of her office. She found a bike rack in a public plaza and now she alternates between biking and walking.
My daughter enrolled in the Downtown Soccer League that plays in Battery Park City and has enjoyed many great seasons of spirited soccer only minutes from our home. We’ve also been able to thoroughly enjoy the parks along the Hudson and East rivers with bike paths — and dogs — of all sizes.
As hard as it is to believe, now my daughter is starting high school and running around the City with her friends. I never have to transport her like I would if she were a suburban teen because she knows the subway system inside and out. The cell phone and text message updates she is required to give when she changes location give us the reassurance we need. Ironically, she now has a long commute of her own to high school because she selected one in another borough. I can sympathize and I tell her that one day she too can choose the walk to work life.
Unless she leaves New York City.