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Wall Street Braces For Possible Transit Strike

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With market volatility, a weak economy, and a spate of corporate scandals, it has been a difficult year for Wall Street. Now, the financial community braces for the possibility of a transit strike.

NY1's Elizabeth Gerst reports.

As a Wall Street analyst, Charles Payne is used to coping with the market's gyrations. But the looming transit strike is throwing him — and thousands of others — a curveball.

“With the entire city on foot, it could get pretty hairy,” Payne said.

Instead of strategizing about how to play Wall Street, Payne said he's working on a game plan to get there.

“Our clock goes by the opening of the New York Stock Exchange, so we can't be late,” Payne said. “I think everyone's going to have to make a lot of adjustments, people will have to leave a lot earlier and I think carpooling is going to be the solution.”

About a dozen Wall Street firms told NY1 they were tinkering with contingency plans already set in motion after September 11.

“There’s been an amazing investment by the financial services and the Wall Street community into providing for maintaining business continuity in the event of a disaster,” said Kathryn Wylde of the New York City Partnership. “This, unfortunately, falls in that category.”

Among the provisions in place if the strike occurs:

  • Using alternative transportation suggested by the city (like additional ferry service and carpooling);

  • booking hotel rooms for key personnel;

  • dedicated 800 hotlines and intranet sites to provide workers with updates;

  • temporarily relocating workers to backup offices outside the city.

    For those already lobbying to stem the exodus of Wall Street firms, the specter of a strike is daunting.

    “If there should be a strike and people redeploy, how many times will they do that and still come back?” Wylde said. “Every time this happens, we're going to lose permanent jobs and we have a discouragement factor where folks say, ÎWe're paying the cost, the extra security and the insurance costs to stay in New York. If the city can be shut down by a relatively small group of people, that's pretty discouraging.”

    Another plan: increased telecommuting. That, combined with those working at satellite offices outside the city, will hit Wall Street's mom and pop shops hard.

    “If the financial services industry brings 25 percent of their key people in during a strike, 75 percent of them will not be coming in,” Wylde said, “will not be going to the local donut shop, will not be patronizing the stores.”

    The New York Stock Exchange, meanwhile, is making plans to make sure it's business as usual and that all of its traders make it onto the floor. It says it has no plans to use additional backup facilities.

    And while some say this latest headache is further eroding Wall Street morale, Payne is taking the threat in stride.

    “It may go back to a similar situation that we had right after September 11, where everyone had to find alternate routes or means to get to work,” he said. “It was pretty successful.”

    Still, Wall Street concedes that the damage to the city would be a lot to bear. The Bloomberg administration estimates the walkout could cost the city up to $$350 million a day.

    --Elizabeth Gerst
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