Transit Shutdown Under Way for Second Time in History

What was once without precedent will now happen for the second time in 14 months: New York City’s transit system is going dark.

But while the shutdown before Tropical Storm Irene last year began at noon on a Saturday — and the restoration of subway service began before the Monday workday — the suspension of subway, bus, and railroad service this time could prove particularly disruptive.

Joseph J. Lhota, the authority’s chairman, suggested that the city could be without most of its transit system for two full weekdays. By Wednesday, he hoped, some service might be restored.

The subways will begin suspending service at 7 p.m. on Sunday, but some buses could remain on the road until 9 p.m. It takes about eight hours to shut down the subway system, but the bus system requires only six hours to close.

Emergency preparations began at the transit agency well before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement of the closings on Sunday morning.

The authority’s hurricane plan calls for service to be suspended if sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour. Thousands of buses and subway cars have already been removed from service and moved to safe locations. Flood-prone subway yards and depots have been cleared, and stations in vulnerable areas, like Lower Manhattan, will be evacuated.

The authority said that “critical track-level components” were being removed from beneath the river tubes to protect the materials from the corrosive effects of salt water in the event of flooding.

On Metro-North Railroad, equipment was to be removed from low-lying areas like the east end of a New Haven yard in Connecticut and the Highbridge and Mott Haven yards in the Bronx. Some trucks, cranes, bulldozers and other equipment were being moved to higher ground. Plans included bringing trains into Grand Central Terminal for shelter.

Some wooden crossing gates were also removed and secured on both Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.

Riders were warned that a suspension of service did not imply that power would be cut to the third rail or overhead wires.

The authority’s paratransit service, Access-A-Ride, suspended its outbound trips at noon on Sunday; return trips were expected to continue until 5 p.m.

The authority said the Staten Island Railway would continue operations for as long as the Staten Island Ferry was in service, if conditions permitted, so that no riders would be stranded at the ferry terminal.

The authority’s bridges will close to all traffic if sustained winds reach 60 miles per hour. Required slowdowns are likely be put in place if winds exceed 39 m.p.h.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that PATH train service would be suspended beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday until further notice.

Operations remained normal at local airports, the agency said, but travelers were encouraged to check with their airlines.

Though Mr. Lhota expressed optimism about restoring service by Wednesday, a return to normal operations is likely to come in fits and starts.

A little over 24 hours after subway, bus, and rail service was suspended for Tropical Storm Irene, some limited bus service returned. About 14 hours after that, the subways began running. Commuter railroad service was restored on a line-by-line basis. Some of them required substantial cleanup of debris and mudslides, and others waited on power to be restored.

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Jefferson Market Spider, Neither Itsy Nor Bitsy, to Climb Again

Not every spider hibernates. But the giant creature that dwells at the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village, appearing once a year to climb the clock tower during the Village Halloween Parade, went into hiding after 2009, when scaffolding covered the library as part of a renovation project.

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On Wednesday, now that the renovation is all but complete, she is to reappear as the parade passes by — weather permitting. (And, yes, said Basil Twist, the puppeteer who has been giving life to the spider since 1995, “We just know she is a she.”)

Mr. Twist and his colleagues have used the hiatus as an opportunity to create an entirely new spider. Built of carved Styrofoam on an aluminum frame, then wrapped in reflective tape, the spider puppet is 14 feet across. Each of its hinged, movable legs is six feet long. The cephalothorax and abdomen together are five feet long. But it weighs only 30 pounds. Light weight is an absolute necessity since Mr. Twist and his associates will be manipulating it for three hours while the parade passes below.

“The spider comes out the minute that the parade reaches that spot — and not before,” said Jeanne Fleming, the artistic director and producing director of the event. “It is a great moment in the parade. Everyone looks up, and suddenly there it is. A blessing on the entire event.”

The spider appears to climb and descend the tower. This year, there will be the additional spectacle of tentacles pouring forth from the upper windows of the clock tower and flailing wildly above the spider.

Let it be noted that the much beloved library branch on the Avenue of the Americas at West 10th Street — built in the 1870s as a municipal courthouse — is wild enough without spiders and tentacles. It is an eyepopping example of spiky, eccentric, colorful Victorian Gothic architecture.

The library also happens to be where the spider dwells quietly 364 days of the year, high up in the clock tower, far from public view; presumably catching and eating the occasional two- or three-foot carved Styrofoam insect. “I love the idea that it lives up here all year round,” said Frank Collerius, the manager of the Jefferson Market Library, a branch in the New York Public Library system.

The renovation was designed by Superstructures Engineers and Architects of Manhattan. The contractor was Nicholson & Galloway, of Glen Head, N.Y.

Jefferson Market has played host to one big spider or another since the mid-1970s, when Ralph Lee, a mask designer, began an informal and spontaneous Halloween celebration centered around a procession of giant puppets. As the parade grew larger, rowdier, less neighborly and more commercial, Mr. Lee stepped away and Ms. Fleming stepped in. She has run the event since 1985. After a number of spider-free years, Mr. Twist revived the custom in 1995.

Though the spider is probably the least ambitious of the theatrical productions in which he is involved, it clearly has a claim on him. “I will still operate the spider for the most part myself,” Mr. Twist said, “but I always have helpers who want the fun of working her — for a little while, of course.”

He nicknamed the creature “Whitey.” Ms. Fleming calls it “Ananse,” after a trickster in West African storytelling who assumes a spider’s form.

The 1995 spider is no longer in New York. It was taken to St. Louis, said Barbara Busackino, the producing director at Mr. Twist’s Tandem Otter Productions. Why there? “It appears on my mother’s rooftop every year,” Ms. Busackino explained.

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Man Is Arrested in Killing of Woman and Baby in the Bronx

Police on Saturday arrested a 21-year-old man and charged him with murdering a woman and her 1-month-old daughter and then setting their Bronx apartment on fire last week.

Firefighters responding to a blaze at the apartment on Thursday night discovered the body of the woman, identified as Luisa Rodriguez, 32, under a mattress with multiple stab wounds. The body of her daughter, Angela, was found nearby.

Police identified the suspect as Eligidio Lind of 42 East 129th Street in Harlem. He has been charged with two counts of murder, two counts of manslaughter and two counts of arson. Police said they believed Mr. Lind was the boyfriend of Ms. Rodriguez, and that he was Angela’s father.

Neighbors said that Ms. Rodriguez’s boyfriend had moved out months ago, but came by frequently. The two would often argue, neighbors said, and as recently as last week, he was heard screaming at her.


Follow Michael Schwirtz on Twitter @mschwirtz.

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An Alert Officer Foiled a Bank Heist, Police Say

Suspicious behavior outside of a bank branch on the Upper West Side, a glimpse of an odd-looking gold-colored card used to withdraw money from an automated teller machine and a stealthy pursuit led to the arrests of two Canadian men on Friday night who, the police said, were carrying about 250 fraudulent A.T.M. cards and more than $50,000 in cash.

The unusual case began unfolding about 9:45 p.m. on Friday when Officer Juan Rodriguez, who was finishing a meal break, saw two men wearing backpacks standing outside a Chase Manhattan branch on Broadway and West 90th Street.

Something about the way the two were standing and gazing into the bank lobby aroused Officer Rodriguez’s suspicions. The men glanced at him as he approached, but he did not break stride, walking instead to an unmarked car.

“I made a point not to raise them up,” Officer Rodriguez said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “They were casing.”

He started the car’s engine and drove off. But the departure was a ruse. Officer Rodriguez drove around the block and seconds later he was back in front of the Chase branch, parked in a new spot that gave him a clear view into the bank’s A.T.M. lobby.

As he watched, one of the men used a gold-colored card without any obvious markings to withdraw money from a machine, he said.

The unusual card, which Officer Rodriguez said resembled a hotel card key, convinced him that the men were doing something wrong. He watched as they left the Chase bank, then followed them as they walked south.

“I ghosted them all the way to 86th and Broadway,” he said.

There, the men entered a Citibank branch. Officer Rodriguez called for backup and soon he was joined by Sgt. Kelvin Perez and Police Officer Sokratis Toumanidis. The men entered the A.T.M. lobby where, once again, Officer Rodriguez said, the strange gold cards were deployed.

Officer Rodriguez lowered the volume on his radio, quietly approached one of the two and watched over his shoulder as he withdrew a stack of bills. Then, Officer Rodriguez said, the man turned and walked right into him.

“I need you to come with me,” Officer Rodriguez said he told the man.

At the same time, the other officers took the second man into custody.

Police officials said that when the officers searched the two men they found 257 plastic cards, some without markings, others emblazoned with Visa or MasterCard logos, which were intended to unlawfully withdraw money from A.T.M.s. In addition, the officials said, the two were carrying nearly $56,000 in knapsacks and in their pockets.

The men, identified by the police as Gnanapandithan Sivaruban, 28, and Pathmasenan Ragavan, 24, both from Ontario, were charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and scheme to defraud.

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