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A man who doesn't work for New Jersey Transit but directed traffic at a bus lot in midtown while wearing an orange agency vest was regularly drunk on the job, possibly endangering commuters and pedestrians until NBC 4 New York began to investigate. Jonathan Vigliotti reports.
During one recent rush hour, with buses, cars, bikers and pedestrians all in a hurry to get home, NBC 4 New York's cameras caught the man at his post outside the 37th Street lot. Moments later, he left and hid behind a portable toilet to drink something concealed in a brown paper bag. And instead of returning to work, he headed down the block to a liquor store.
Later he directed commuter buses in and out of the lot, using a red flag, while another NJ Transit worker at the lot slept in a bus.
When NBC 4 New York confronted the man, he admitted he was drunk and took a drink from a vodka bottle on camera.
He identified himself as Hector Santiago, and said he is homeless and an alcoholic. He said the other NJ Transit worker at the lot, later identified to NBC 4 New York as Max Caramas, was paying him to direct buses. Santiago said Caramas is his "supervisor" and "boss."
When asked whether he thought it was safe to be drunk on the job, he said: "I don't care," adding "because I watch them."
NJ Transit told NBC 4 New York that Santiago is not an employee and is not supposed to be directing traffic. Officials could not say how he wound up with the job but said he would be removed immediately.
The next day, NBC 4 New York talked to Caramas. He first denied knowing Santiago, and when asked why he would allow the drunk man to direct traffic, he said: "I don't allow anything. I'm just a driver."
He later admitted he is a bus driver who "sometimes" directs traffic at the lot. When asked whether he was paying Santiago to do his job, Caramas declined comment. He later said he only wanted to help out Santiago.
Sean Patrick Hillman, a commuter who first alerted NBC 4 New York to the potentially dangerous situation, said "at the end of the day it's not going to help him."
NJ Transit officials say they are investigating.