By Jonathan Halbal
A few hundred, dedicated teachers, students, administrators, and staff members flood through the glass doors of 40 Charlton Street every morning, coming from various parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A large portion of the faculty and student body travel only a short distance, but several embark on extreme journeys to arrive at Elisabeth Irwin High School.
The average New York City resident faces the longest commute time among workers in the nation’s largest 30 cities, according to NYC’s comptroller Scott Stringer’s March 2015 study. Full time workers in NYC spend approximately 6 hours and 18 minutes commuting each week–the equivalent of about one hour and 16 minutes a day round trip, or 38 minutes each way. Though 38 minutes is the average, some LREI faculty and student commutes go above and beyond these figures.
Math teacher Chris Vicevich’s commute from Hamden, Connecticut,. almost quadruples the citywide average. Every morning, Chris wakes up at about 4:30 a.m. and spends anywhere from two hours and 25 minutes to three hours on the train. Senior Henry Gonzalez commutes from Riverdale, The Bronx, and wakes up at about 5:30 a.m. After completing his morning routine, Henry is out of the house and heads for the 1 train no later than 6:40 a.m.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) trains are the easiest way of getting to school for almost all faculty and students, but not the most reliable. “I usually get to the station early because the 2 train delays are unpredictable and quite common,” senior Malcolm Mckenzie said. With the urban frenzy known as rush hour, anything could happen in Malcolm’s trip from East Flatbush, so he tries try to leave a little early.
Many of our New Jersey commuters’ journeys consist of taking New Jersey Transit. Sophomore Loveday Trumbull’s commute from Maplewood, New Jersey, takes anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour. “My mom drives me to the station,” she says. “I then get the Morris Essex Line train headed to Penn Station.” After arriving there she then transfers to the 1 to Houston Street.
Most students and teachers travel alone in the morning, but some, like junior Amalia Jaimes-Lukes and senior Mekhi DueWhite, frequently travel together. “We both live in Park Slope, so I meet her at her house, 7 blocks away from mine, and get on the 7th Ave F or G train with her,” Mekhi said. They are on the train for about 40 minutes, but the time flies by with a friend.
Sophomore Scekem Wells, like the majority of faculty and students, travels alone. His hour and 30 minute commute from Canarsie, Brooklyn, is done all by himself, now that his brother, LREI Alumni ‘15, Simmon Wells is off to college. “In the morning, I take the B 17 to the L train,” he said. “On the L train I need to find a seat because I’m on there for about 50 minutes, alone.”
For many, because MTA trains can get so crowded and people have such long commutes, finding a seat can be a crucial part of their train ride. Some spend time reading, studying or just listening into the lives their fellow commuters. A large student population also uses this time to do homework, but on a crowded train it is almost impossible.
“I was standing up trying to finish my annotations for the Scarlet Letter and the train was packed,” sophomore Shahid Dar said. “A person comes into the train and knocks my book out of my hand I couldn’t get it. If I bent down I would hit someone, so I had to wait for like 6 stops until people started getting off. There was no personal space at all, I was up close with everyone on that train and could barely do my homework.”
I spoke with five teachers and students who say that they aren’t focused enough to do homework on the train and instead spend most of their time listening to music. It is not only a way to tune out the chaotic subway environment, but for many is quite calming. “I just listen to chill Amy Winehouse music on the train,” says junior Sophia Santoro, who commutes just over an hour from Maplewood, New Jersey. “It gets me in my morning mood” While the majority seem to listen to music, some prefer to spend their time on the train doing other things. Senior Camrin Cohen’s commute from Columbus Circle, she finds herself spending a lot of time catching up on sleep. Science teacher Preethi Thomas-McKnight, however, prefers to do the opposite. “I pay attention to my surroundings or meditate,” says Preethi of her commute from Harlem on the 2 line.
Many in the LREI community undergo these lengthy commutes for multiple reasons. Manjula Nair from the math department says she was fortunate enough to choose where she wanted to work before she chose where she tolive, but many don’t have that option. Many teachers and student don’t have the quality, progressive education available options in their neighborhoods, can’t afford to live elsewhere, or have prior responsibilities such as children that require them to stay in their areas. Many responded they simply need an education, or have a job to support my family. But overall, people seem genuinely love LREI. It’s not surprising to see students here from the 4’s and faculty here for such a long time. “LREI is a good place to work. It’s a type of school that cares about you and makes me want to get up and go to school in the morning.” said Manjula. Faculty love LREI just as much as students do, senior Patric Williams says, who comes from an hour and a half away in the Bronx. “I really love pretty much everything about the school and think it’s very much perfect for me and the people here are great. I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else.”