After Sandy: Gas Lines Start to Ease in New York



In Hell’s Kitchen, gasoline lines are still long, but more organized. Photo: Stephanie Ott.

Lines at many gas stations are slowly shrinking, as more gas supplies arrive in New York. The city struggled with a gas shortage for a week, triggered by the superstorm Sandy. Miles-long lines at gas stations led to much anger and frustration among drivers.

At Hess gas station at 502 West 45th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, there was a long line of 35 cars along 10th Avenue, waiting for their turn to fill up their tanks. People also came by foot with gas cans to stock up as much as they could carry. However, around twelve traffic police officers made sure that the line moved orderly and swiftly.

“I’ve been checking Twitter to see which lines were shortest. They update it every two hours,” said Alec Nguyen, who went to Hell’s Kitchen from the Upper East Side with two cans. “I want to fill up as much as I can.” He said it’s his third time queuing for gasoline, but that this time it’s the first time where people waited patiently in line, without trying to skip it or complaining.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a media briefing on Sunday that it will take a “couple of days” before the regional gas shortage is fully resolved.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, power failures and distribution issues led to long lines at the gas stations last week. “Now is not the time to be using the car if you don’t need to,” Cuomo said. “Now is not the time to be hoarding fuel.”

“It’s more organized now and slowly getting back to normal,” said a police officer that had been on duty at Hess gas station for the last seven days. “We’re trying to keep the situation under control, more gas is coming in and it’s moving.”

“I haven’t been driving my car last week, because there was no gas and the traffic has been horrendous,” said Kelley Bancroft, who traveled in from Staten Island. He had to wait in line for one and a half hours to fuel up his company car. “There’s nothing I can do about it though, so you just have to wait it out.”

“We’re not 100 percent sure when the system will be up and running where you won’t feel any effect whatsoever,” Cuomo said, but he ensured that the gas shortage is a short-term problem.

One skeptic, standing in line, wondered whether the predicted storm on Wednesday and Thursday will have a further negative impact, or whether the media are exaggerating its potential effect.

Update:  By Tuesday afternoon, two lines had formed for the Hess gas station on Tenth Avenue at the corner of West 45th Street. One line, of about 40 cars, snaked down West 45th Street to Eleventh Avenue and then up Eleventh Avenue another block, offering drivers about a 45-minute wait.  The other line, of about 60 cars, extended down Tenth Avenue past West 39th Street. Drivers in this line reported spending over an hour and a half waiting to refuel.  Some drivers opted to skip the lines of cars, standing instead in two more queues of individuals filling up gas cans. A tanker was parked at the rear end of the lot delivering gas to the 24-pump station.

Bob Chenoweth, along with his three children, Luke, Olivia and Angelina, drove into Midtown from Connecticut armed with donated Bibles, water bottles and granola bars, to distribute to people waiting in the long gas lines. “God woke me up in the morning and said I want you to go down to New Jersey and give out water,” said Chenoweth.  But, finding New Jersey in better shape than he expected, Chenoweth turned his attention to Manhattan.  “[We?re] quenching spiritual thirsts and physical thirsts,” he said.

Efraim Martinez, a cab driver, said that he had only waited 15 minutes in the Eleventh Avenue line. “I started [in the] Tenth Avenue line, that was crazy,” he said. “[The gas stations] are all the same, about an hour [wait] almost everywhere.”

Walter Stingle, who lives in the West 60s, was pleased with his 45-minute wait time. “I was around in the late 1970s,” he said. “Compared to that. this is a walk in the park.” – Morgan Davis and Emmanuel Felton