New York Gasoline Rationing Cuts Lines as Transit Expands

New York Begins Gasoline Rationing as Midtown Tunnel Reopens
Carmelo Anthony helps distribute aid as part of his foundation's Storm Relief Project with Feed the Children and Metro Ministries in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City on November 8, 2012. Photographer: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Gasoline rationing came to New York City and Long Island, reducing lines at filling stations, and commuting options expanded as the region worked to recover from the damage caused by superstorm Sandy and a snowy nor’easter.

The city and Nassau and Suffolk counties today joined New Jersey in an odd-even system for fueling based on license plate numbers. To aid commuters who use northern New Jersey train lines that remain out of service, the state is offering free shuttle buses to the Weehawken Ferry Terminal for trips to Manhattan, Governor Chris Christie said.

Gasoline is available to drivers with license-plate numbers ending in an odd number or a letter today. Those with plates ending in an even number or zero can buy fuel tomorrow. Lines were shorter after the system took effect.

“Rationing is making it better,” said John Berroa, 22, a security guard who was helping direct traffic around the Hess filling station at 44th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan. “It’s been gradually improving since the hurricane.”

The rationing “seems to be helping a little,” Cesar Rivera, 39, said at the 44th Street Hess station.

Rivera, who works for a car-rental company, said he waited 20 minutes today to fill up 10 gallons worth of red portable containers as well as the 35-gallon tank of his white Ford E-350 van. He said his longest wait was seven hours on Nov. 2 when cars were backed up to 28th Street.

Two Hours

The wait for gasoline was more than two hours at the Hess station on 4th Avenue and Union Street in Brooklyn this morning as the line stretched for 12 blocks.

For Jean Celestine, 52, of Park Slope, it was an improvement. He waited 3.5 hours earlier in the week at the same station.

“The line is shorter, trust me,” he said as he filled his Toyota sport-utility vehicle that had a license plate ending in 1. The system “is working,” he said. “If people aren’t seeing it work now, they are going to see it work in the future.”

The Nov. 7 nor’easter hit the region nine days after Sandy triggered an almost 14-foot tidal surge as it slammed into the East Coast. The superstorm displaced thousands of residents, crippled mass transit, knocked out power to more than 8.5 million customers in 21 states and killed more than 100, including 42 in New York City.

Families Struggling

About 28 percent of retail-fuel stations in the New York metropolitan area have no gasoline for sale, the Energy Department estimated yesterday. Seven terminals in New York and New Jersey remained shut as of 8 a.m. today because of the storm, the department reported. Two New Jersey refineries with a combined capacity of 308,000 barrels a day are idled.

The snowstorm caused more than 92,000 homes and businesses to lose power in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the U.S. Energy Department said. Crews resumed repairs after high winds abated, said Consolidated Edison Inc., the New York utility.

“I know how hard it is for these families that are struggling,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday at a news briefing in Manhattan. “I’ve been out there every day. It has been long. It has been hard.”

Cuomo said damage and economic losses to New York state may total $33 billion, which he called a “staggering number.” The costs may widen the already $1 billion budget gap the state is facing, he said.

Damaged Homes

As of this morning, 492,080 homes and businesses mostly in New York and New Jersey had no power, according to the Energy Department.

Less than 1,000 New York City homes have been completely ruined, most of them in coastal communities of the Rockaways in Queens and the beaches of Brooklyn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today during his weekly WOR radio show. Another 70,000 to 80,000 homes had some water damage, with flooded basements that in many instances destroyed electrical panels and heating systems, he said.

“The great American dream was to live on the beach and these people have worked hard all their lives to accomplish that,” said the mayor, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

As many as 30,000 of those in damaged homes may need temporary housing as cold weather makes their places unlivable, Bloomberg said. About half of city residents without power live in public housing and should get service restored by tomorrow, with heat returning by early next week, he said.

“That’s a group that we did have to worry about that we now don’t have to worry about,” except for one or two buildings, with a relatively small number of people for whom the city can find new housing, he said.

Back to Normal

Most schools were open yesterday as New Jersey and New York City struggled to return to normal.

The Queens Midtown Tunnel reopened today to auto traffic after being flooded by Sandy. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, formerly the Brooklyn-Battery, is the only major crossing that remains shut. New York City’s L subway line running along Manhattan’s 14th Street into Brooklyn resumed operations for the first time since Sandy flooded it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

Beginning Nov. 12, a temporary ferry service will run between the Rockaways and Manhattan during morning and evening rush hours, Bloomberg said today. Fares will be $2 each way.

Governor Relieved

Christie said he was relieved that coastal areas devastated by Sandy escaped severe damage from the winter storm.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Christie told reporters yesterday at a news briefing in Somerset.

Christie, who imposed gasoline rationing in 12 New Jersey counties on Nov. 2, said yesterday that the order is working to relieve lines and he may lift it by next week.

The attorneys general in New York and New Jersey have been investigating complaints from consumers about gouging for gasoline, food and generators following Sandy. New Jersey today sued seven filling stations and a hotel for raising prices as much as 59 percent during a state of emergency.

Gasoline Prices

Pump prices in the area are rising, defying a nationwide decline, according to AAA, the nation’s largest motoring organization. Gasoline in New Jersey rose 0.4 cent yesterday to $3.649 a gallon, in New York City gained 1 cent to $4.146 and on Long Island increased 2 cents to $4.144. Across the country, prices slipped 0.8 cent to $3.456.

For Willy Johnson, 45, of Queens, the most stressful part of the storm aftermath has been searching for gasoline.

Johnson has been on the hunt this week to fill up his van for his job delivering the Metro newspaper in Brooklyn. He became so desperate earlier this week after his van ran out, he rented another van because it came with a full tank of gas. That backfired because when it came time to return it, he couldn’t find an open station to refill it and had to pay a fee.

“I wake up every day thinking about where I’m going to find gas,” Johnson said as he stood in line with two red gas cans at the Hess in Brooklyn. “I drove around and there are lines everywhere. I’m frustrated. I think everybody is.”

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