The lights are back on in lower Manhattan to the relief of residents who had been plunged into darkness for nearly five days by Superstorm Sandy, but resentment festered yesterday in the city’s outer boroughs and suburbs over a lack of power and maddening gas shortages.
Falling temperatures added to the misery of those lacking power, heat or gasoline and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged older residents without heat to move to shelters and said 25,000 blankets were being distributed across the city.
“We’re New Yorkers ... we’re going to get through it,” Bloomberg said on Saturday. “But I don’t want anyone to think we’re out of the woods.”
Bloomberg said that resolving gas shortages could take days. Lines snaked around gas stations all over the stricken region, including northern New Jersey, where New Jersey Governor Chris Christie imposed rationing that recalled the worst days of fuel shortages in the 1970s.
Ten people were arrested at gas stations in various disputes over line jumping, police said. The police presence where there were gas lines was increased on Saturday. Still, there was one arrest for disorderly conduct at the armory in Brooklyn, where free gasoline was being distributed. Nowhere was the scene more confused than at a refueling station there, where the National Guard gave out free gas — an effort to alleviate the situation. A mass of honking cars, desperate drivers and people on foot, carrying containers from empty bleach bottles to massive water jugs, was just the latest testament to the misery unleashed by Sandy.
“It’s chaos, it’s pandemonium out here,” said Chris Damon, who had been waiting for three hours at the site and had circled the block five times. “It seems like nobody has any answers.”
Damon, 42, had already been displaced to Brooklyn from his home in Queens, where he still lacked power, as did millions outside Manhattan — from Staten Island, the hardest-hit borough, to Westchester County and other suburban areas.
Domingo Isasi, waiting in a gas line on Staten Island, minced no words about the divide between Manhattan and the outer boroughs.
“The priorities are showing, simply by the fact that Manhattan got their power back,” he said, adding that Staten Islanders are used to being lower on the list. “We’re the bastard kids who keep getting slapped in the head and told to shut up.”
At a gas giveaway station in Queens, the scene was calmer, but not happier. More than 400 cars stretched for more than a dozen blocks, with one tanker filling cars one at a time.
The 19,000-liter trucks from the Department of Defense were dispatched to five locations around the New York City metropolitan area.
“Do not panic. I know there is anxiety about fuel,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Hours later, after the long lines formed, New York state officials said the public should stay away from the refueling stations until emergency responders first got their gas and more supplies were made available. However, National Guard Colonel Richard Goldenberg added that those who were already at the distribution sites would not be turned away.
Gas rationing went into effect at noon on Saturday in 12 counties of northern New Jersey, where police began enforcing rules to allow only motorists with odd-numbered license plates to refuel. Those with even-numbered plates had to wait until yesterday.
Jessica Tisdale waited in her Mercedes SUV for 40 minutes at a gas station in Jersey City, but said she did not really understand the system and was ordered to pull away because of her even-numbered plate.
“Is it the number or the letter?” she asked. “I don’t think it’s fair. I’ve been in the line since before noon. I don’t think it’s fair. There’s no clarity.”
The officer who waved her out of line threw up his hands and shrugged.