Bad Timing For NYC Strike

The New Yorkers who walked to work this morning found a much different city than they are used to seeing. And for out-of-towners, it was something of a challenge, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

Think about it. For a city that thrives on speed and convenience, tourists and shoppers, hustle and bustle, there could hardly be a worse time for a transit strike than five days before Christmas.

"The economic consequences of the strike range from severe to devastating," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It could cost as much as $400 million a day because the city is packed with tourists and this is always the busiest time of year at some of the most famous addresses in America — shops on Fifth Avenue and the theatres on Broadway.

Meredith Pike Bakey, from California, is learning it's hard to spend money if you can't get around.

"I think this strike is challenging tourists," she says. "We can't buy anything. We don't have time to shop."

The last time the transit workers walked out — in 1980 — it only cost the city $100 million a day. But that strike was in the spring — not the prime business season.

Cristyne Nicholas, one of New York's top promoters, was expecting the city to do well this month — very well — between $5-6 billion in tourist business alone.

Nicholas says the effect can be devastating to businesses.

"It'll make or break them. One month can be about 20 percent of their annual income," Nicholas says. "We were having such a great year, if we could just put this behind us as quickly as possible, we'll be able to bounce back."

Nicholas tries to put the best face on all this — and so did Meredith Pike Bakey, the tourist from California. She told us, "This is a fascinating way to experience New York."

I don't think she necessarily meant that as a compliment.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com