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UlmerPark B6

Meet New York City's most popular bus driver

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NYC Transit bus driver David Abramski, formerly homeless, is recipient of award for being most popular driver.

 

David Abramski found redemption behind the wheel of a city bus.

 

For a decade, he begged for spare change outside stores and at subway stops to buy booze and drugs.

 

He scavenged garbage cans for food and slept in a homeless encampment in a train tunnel beneath Riverside Park.

 

Today, the 51-year-old is a dutiful civil servant, an NYC Transit bus driver who was just named one of the fleet's most popular operators.

 

"It's a great honor," he said. "I never expected it."

 

Last year, 21 riders - all unaware of Abramski's personal journey - wrote or called the agency to praise his good-natured treatment of passengers. No other bus driver got as many commendations.

 

Abramski "is so pleasant, he makes up for all the rude ones," one woman wrote. The praise prompted NYC Transit President Howard Roberts to give Abramski an award at the agency's headquarters.

 

Abramski, still remembered on the West Side by his street name "Hollywood," is soft-spoken but brims with youthful exuberance.

 

In the mid-'80s, Abramski was a 29-year-old bicycle messenger and musician with rock-star dreams. He lived in a single-room-occupancy hotel on 107th St. that charged $80 a week for a shared bathroom and kitchen.

 

The only child of strict parents, he rebelled early and often, he said. He started smoking marijuana at 14 and branched out from there to crack, which was then ravaging the city.

 

"That's a killer," he said. "I went downhill from there. Whatever savings I had - I think it was something like $600 - went like that."

 

He was soon evicted for nonpayment of rent and moved into Riverside Park, which teemed with the homeless, many of them drug addicts, alcoholics or mental patients.

 

After being caught in a police "scoop" of the homeless, Abramski went underground. A ventilation shaft in the park led to a freight tunnel and a concrete ledge 20 feet above the tracks.

 

"I was a mole person for a while," he said. "I made camp under there. We had a little community."

 

Daniel Entin, director of the small Nicholas Roerich Museum near the park, had many conversations with Abramski, who, he recalled, would discuss politics and spoke French with another employee.

 

"He was different than everybody else," Entin said. "You meet people on the street, and some are bitter and aggressive. He was always open and friendly, even loving with people."

 

The gap between the wayward son and his mother eventually narrowed a bit and, one day, he was invited to move back to her upper West Side home if he quit drugs. At age 40, Abramski was ready to change.

 

"I had finally hit my bottom," he said. "You couldn't go lower than living under Riverside Park in a tunnel."

 

A substance abuse program wasn't necessary, Abramski said, thanks to a series of harsh winters. He opted to spend weekends underground, surviving on stockpiled food - without drugs.

 

"I figured if I could live without it for a couple of days, I could do it," he said. "I could stop."

 

Turned down for several jobs, Abramski resumed working as a messenger. After about two years, NJTransit hired him as a part-time bus driver. A year later, he landed a job with NYC Transit, where he just marked his eighth year.

 

In June, Abramski married his girlfriend, Barbara Alice. The couple lives in Union City, N.J., with their dog.

 

"Now, I'm the boy my mother and father always wanted me to be," he said. "Nice and clean-cut, upstanding, with a job."

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Edited by Trainspotter
Meet New York City's most popular bus driver

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Interesting story, but how did he get a job with NJ Transit and the MTA after doing drugs?

 

Because he stopped doing drugs. :D

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Most people would have given up,but he didn't. I don't know about you but being homeless for even just a night would turn me into a mad savage. This guy survived on the streets,in the tunnels,in the parks for 10 yrs. Somebody gave him a chance,which is all that he needed and he turned his life around.

 

The Daily News and all newspapers should write more stories like these. Thumbs up to you Mr.Abramski.

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I think he works at MJQ. I rode him on the M42 before.

 

Well, then I'd very surprised if you didn't recognize him. :cool:

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