Weather: Cloudy, with a good chance of rain in the afternoon and a high in the low 40s.
Alternate-side parking: In effect until Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving).
They paid $200 and stood on line for two hours in the rain.
And they were the lucky ones.
The line of parents waiting to get a tour of Beacon High School in Manhattan, one of the most selective schools in New York City, went down West 43rd Street, across 10th Avenue, up West 44th Street, across 11th Avenue and back up West 43rd.
Eliza Shapiro, an education reporter for The Times, visited the line last month and called it one of the few “tangible symbols of all the inequality and sort of craziness” of the admission process for public high schools. “This tells us a lot about how much the city isn’t working,” she told me an interview.
How to get to the front of the line
First, it helps to know that Beacon exists.
As Ms. Shapiro wrote, the school’s admissions rate is roughly akin to Yale’s: There were 5,800 applicants for 360 ninth-grade seats last year — but that was just a small fraction of eligible students.
“Tens of thousands of eligible families were not there at all,” Ms. Shapiro wrote.
It also helps to know it would be wise to show up two hours early for the 4:30 p.m. tour.
Parents who paid $200 for a newsletter written by a local admission consultant, Elissa Stein, got reminders about that and other aspects of the application process, Ms. Shapiro reported.
One parent toward the front of the line, Jill Taddeo, said, “The Department of Education should be doing what Elissa Stein is doing, for free.” (A spokeswoman for the department said consultants had a financial incentive to raise concern about the admissions process.)
The lines that surround Beacon and other elite high schools “are a living symbol of the anxiety, competition and inequality that define New York’s segregated public school system,” Ms. Shapiro wrote.
What the line tells us about the city’s high schools
“The fact that parents are paying $200 for a newsletter that gives them information about the process tells us a lot about how difficult this process is to navigate for pretty much everyone,” Ms. Shapiro said.
For years, students could simply attend their local high school. That changed in 2003, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg got rid of the zoned high school system. The rules in place today allow students to apply to up to 12 high schools anywhere in New York City; then an algorithm matches them with one school.
The goal of the current system is to give students who live in neighborhoods with underperforming high schools a chance to attend better ones. The changes helped create a lucrative marketplace for education information. And parents who can more easily gain access to that information — When is Beacon’s open house? When do I have to register for it? — have an advantage.
“I think choice as a concept is really appealing and makes a lot of sense, and parents did want it,” Ms. Shapiro said. “But it creates haves and have-nots.”
Want more news? Check out our full coverage.
The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.
What we’re reading
The resting place of Eva Evdokimova, a renowned prima ballerina, remains a mystery, and her half brother is searching for answers. [New York Post]
A new Police Department group made up of high-ranking Asian-American officers aims to mentor other Asian-American officers in hopes of helping them land leadership positions.[City Limits]
Some good news for La Guardia fliers: Via, a ride-share company, announced $15 flat-rate trips from the airport to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. [Gothamist]
Coming up today
Listen to readings by Zadie Smith, Jeffrey Eugenides and other professors of creative writing at New York University in Manhattan. 7 p.m. [Free with R.S.V.P.]
Firestarters, a women’s and L.G.B.T.Q. open mic night, is at the EastVille Comedy Club in Brooklyn. 8 p.m. [$5]
Learn how to care for and digitally preserve media including photographs and floppy disks in a workshop at the Brooklyn Historical Society. 6:30 p.m. [$35]
And finally: Overnight at a bodega
“Night at the Museum” is Hollywood fantasy. A night in a bodega, that’s real New York.
Julia Rothman, an illustrator, and Shania Feinberg, an illustrator and columnist for The Times, spent eight hours inside 525 Metro Deli, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here’s what they saw:
Behind the counter was Akhil Samir, 21. “I’ve been working the night shift at this bodega for two months now,” he said.
What kind of business does a bodega do between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.? Among the sales Mr. Samir made that night: 34 bags of chips, 25 single beers, 18 packs of cigarettes, 16 deli sandwiches, 14 waters, 13 six-packs of beer, 11 coffees, two newspapers and one gallon of milk.
Among those who stopped in were two police officers, one model and one persistent drug dealer, Ms. Rothman and Ms. Feinberg wrote … I mean, drew:
Metropolitan Diary: Calling Con Ed
I smelled gas and called Con Ed’s emergency number. They said they would send a trained mechanic within 45 minutes.
Three minutes later, a hook and ladder came clanging down the street. Eight firefighters walked through my apartment. After checking around, they pronounced me safe and then started commenting about the place.
“This hallway is so long,” one said.
“Fifty-five feet,” I said.
”How many bedrooms?” another asked.
“Four,” I said, “but two are 8 by 10.”
“This woodwork is just beautiful.”
“Thank you. Mahogany and rosewood.”
“You’re not planning on moving anytime soon, are you?”
I gave them a bag of white-chocolate macadamia nut cookies and thanked them for coming.
Two Con Ed workers showed up just as the firefighters were leaving. They did a very thorough check using rods that clicked like Geiger counters. I thanked them profusely and led them to the door.
We shook hands. They lingered.
“Are you going to give us cookies, too?” one of them asked.