Stuck between Stations

By Quirke, Antonia | New Statesman (1996), September 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Stuck between Stations


Quirke, Antonia, New Statesman (1996)


A week on US radio

Various

Fun-wise, it's been an unspectacular summer in New York. "We are quietly snoring," reports the New York Times, briefly enlivened by Beyonce causing havoc at Coney Island by perfecting her make-up for an impromptu photo shoot on the 90-year-old Ferris wheel, and leaving a lone couple stranded for over half an hour 150 feet at the top, certain they had been forgotten for the night and forced to sit tearfully in their wind-rattled cage, gazing down on the wide and clamouring boardwalk below.

When immigrants approached New York by boat in the 19th century, it wasn't the Statue of Liberty they saw first, but the one million electric lights of Coney Island--lights promising one thing: here, pleasure is a birthright. But not this summer. A numbing heatwave in June was followed by perpetual drizzle and brown-shadowed thunderstorms along the Jersey shore, knocking out power in the run-up to Labor Day.

"After the news, I wanna bring something up," sighed Jim Gearhart, the veteran host of New Jersey 101.5, on yet another overcast morning. "Today's the day that the burger flippers are supposed to go on strike. Has anybody in New Jersey heard about this?"

In New York, fast-food workers' wages have increased just 25 cents in ten years to a parlous $7.25 ([pounds sterling]4.67) an hour. The burger flippers of New Jersey--the most densely populated state in the Union, with tens of thousands working in that industry--earn marginally more, but still short of Barack Obama's proposed $9 minimum wage. …

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