NEW YORK — New Yorkers faced another bone-chilling commute Wednesday without their cherished subways and buses as a transit strike entered its second day, leaving both patience and shoe leather wearing thin.

With talks still stalled, a judge imposed a huge fine Tuesday against the Transport Workers Union — $1 million for each day of the strike — and lawyers were due back in court Wednesday.

The sanction was levied against workers for violating a state law that bars public employees from going on strike. The union said it would immediately appeal, calling the penalty excessive.

The strike over wages and pensions began Tuesday morning, just five days before Christmas and at a time when the city is especially busy with shoppers and tourists.

“It’s too cold for this,” said Jose Cespedes, 55, a hotel maintenance manager who was planning on walking 25 blocks home in 24-degree weather and winds swirling. “I’m very disappointed that neither side thought enough about the community.”

The mayor put into effect a sweeping emergency plan, including a requirement that cars entering Manhattan below 96th Street have at least four occupants.

Crowds were thick at both Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal as commuters waited for trains on the two suburban rail lines, where the number of riders soared.

“It’s pandemonium,” said Dana Berkowitz, outside Pennsylvania Station during Tuesday’s evening rush hour. “I feel like I’m in the mosh pit of a Metallica concert.”

Bundled up in heavy coats and hats, others shared cabs and car pools, caught water taxis, biked, rollerbladed or even walked. The mayor joined pedestrians hoofing it across the Brooklyn Bridge.

“The city is functioning, and functioning well considering the severe circumstances,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said before ripping into the union, saying “their leadership thuggishly turned its back” on New York.

On the picket lines, transit workers expressed outrage at management.

“We’re tired of being treated like we’re the garbage of the city,” said Angel Ortiz, 32, standing on the Bronx-Manhattan border with hundreds of other striking transit workers beneath an elevated rail line that carried no trains.

Aside from a police officer being accidentally bumped by a flatbed truck at a checkpoint in Queens, there were no reports of strike-related injuries, accidents or crimes.

“New Yorkers always try to find a way to deal with things like this. New Yorkers always find a way to overcome,” said Chris Reed, 37, an insurance executive waiting in line for a taxi.

Anthony Sabino, professor of law and economics at St. Johns University, estimated the city was losing about $100 million a day, a sum he described as “a big blow to New York. The timing is lousy and the economic impact is lousy.”

New York retailers, restaurants and bars are expected to bear much of the brunt of the strike. The week before Christmas traditionally accounts for up to 20 percent of many stores’ holiday sales, and consumers who must pay higher taxi fares or face long walks could slow their spending.

The union said the latest MTA offer included annual pay raises of 3 percent, 4 percent and 3.5 percent. Pensions were another major sticking point in the talks, particularly involving new employees.

In its last offer before negotiations broke down, the MTA had proposed increasing employee contributions to the pension plan from 2 percent to 6 percent, said union lawyer Walter Meginniss Jr. He added that such a change would be “impossible” for the union to accept.

“Were it not for the pension piece, we would not be out on strike,” union president Roger Toussaint said in an interview with NY1. “All it needs to do is take its pension proposal off the table.”

The International TWU, the union’s parent, had urged the local not to go on strike. Its president, Michael O’Brien, reiterated Tuesday that the striking workers were legally obligated to resume working. The only way to a contract, he said, is “not by strike but continued negotiation.”

State Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones has yet to rule on whether a second union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, will also be fined. The union has two chapters in New York that have joined the strike.

Also undecided is whether the individual officers of the two unions will be fined for supporting the strike. The Transport Workers Union’s 33,000 members already face the loss of two days pay for every day they are on strike.

The nation’s largest mass transit system counts each fare as a rider, giving it more than 7 million riders each day — although many customers take a daily round trip.

The strike was costing Jack Akameiza, 66, a day’s pay. He was trying to get from Manhattan to Coney Island and got as far as Grand Central Terminal, where he was trying to find a car pool.

“I cannot go to work,” he said. “I cannot take care of my family.”


Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik and Anne D’Innocenzio contributed to this report.

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