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Car Culture

Driver-Nannies Keep Kids and Parents Safe From Transit

10:31 AM EST on February 26, 2008


Here's one for the anti-pricing populists. 

Scared of or repulsed by public transportation, too impatient to wait for a cab, and burdened with excess cash, more well-to-do parents are enlisting driver-cum-nannies to ferry the kids to school and soccer practice, according to a recent article in the Observer.

Say hello to the "Dranny."

Jill Zarin, an Upper East Side mother of a teenager, who together with her husband operates Zarin Fabrics and Home Furnishing, is a "dranny" pioneer, having employed one for a decade ... and calls the hire a practical investment. "Cabs are exorbitant!" said Ms. Zarin, who is featured on the upcoming Bravo TV series The Real Housewives of New York City. "I took a cab from 60th street to downtown the other day and it cost me $20."

Crystal Sikora, a classical singer and mother of a 7-year-old son, lives uptown but chauffeurs her son, who had an unspecified traumatic experience on the school bus, to and from his downtown private school in her black Dodge Durango. "I spend four hours a day in the car," she said. "My son loves it because I have a DVD player and we spend quiet time in the car together. I like control of my nice, clean car."

Of course all those Durangos and Denalis are clogging up the streets, leading schools to spend extra money on personnel to direct traffic and neighbors to complain about rampant double parking. And though police are reportedly hesitant to ticket cars of prominent families, some dranny employers feel victimized when their $60K-per-year drivers can't park wherever they want ("Bloomberg's ticket marathon is out of control," said Barbara S.).

The New York Times ran a similar article about a year ago, focusing on congestion and safety issues at the 92nd Street Y, brought by a surge of chauffeur-driven pre-schoolers.

In the interest of sanity, the Observer also talked to parents who are put off by the dranny trend. Said one: "Part of growing up [in the city] was learning how to budget transportation time, how to choose the best route and how to take responsibility for ourselves. The rewards: self-confidence, freedom to explore the city and a treasure of experiences."

At least one kid feels the same way.

Allyson Shapiro, Ms. Zarin's 10th-grader, is one of the sheltered kids finally allowed to explore the glory of mass transit. "This year I started taking the train," she said, and marveled: "It was so fast!"

Photo: Jennifer S. Altman/New York Times

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