NEW YORK (AP) — Motorists increasingly desperate for a fill-up fumed in long lines at gas stations and screamed at each other Friday as fuel shortages in Superstorm Sandy’s wake spread across the metropolitan area.
Meanwhile, a backlash appeared to be building against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to hold the New York City Marathon on Sunday as scheduled, with some New Yorkers complaining that going ahead with the 26.2-mile race would be insensitive and divert city resources at a time when many are suffering.
Four days after Sandy slammed the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, the U.S. death toll climbed past 90 in 10 states, and included two boys who were torn from their mother’s grasp by rushing floodwaters in Staten Island during the storm. Their bodies were found in a marshy area on Thursday.
With fuel deliveries in the East disrupted by storm damage and many gas stations lacking electricity to run their pumps, gasoline became a precious commodity, especially for those who depend on their cars for their livelihoods.
Some drivers complained of waiting three and four hours in line, only to see the pumps run out when it was almost their turn. Cars ran out of gas before they reached the front of the line. Police officers were assigned to gas stations to maintain order. In Queens, a man was charged Thursday with flashing a gun at another motorist who complained he was cutting in line.
At a Hess gas station Friday morning in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, the line snaked at least 10 blocks through narrow and busy streets. That caused confusion among other drivers, some of whom accidentally found themselves in the gas line. People got out of their cars to yell at them.
In addition, at least 60 people were lined up to fill red gas cans for their generators.
Vince Levine got in line in his van at 5 a.m. By 8 a.m., he was still two dozen cars from the front. “I had a half-tank when I started. I’ve got a quarter-tank now,” he said.
“There’s been a little screaming, a little yelling. And I saw one guy banging on the hood of a car. But mostly it’s been OK,” he said.
Cabdriver Harum Prince joined a line for gasoline in Manhattan that stretched 17 blocks down 10th Avenue, with about half the cars yellow cabs, a crucial means of getting around in a city with a still-crippled mass transit system.
“I don’t blame anybody,” he said. “God, he knows why he brought this storm.”
More 3.8 million homes and business in the East were still without power, down from a peak of 8.5 million. But across the New York metropolitan area, there were more signs that life was beginning to return to something approaching normal.
Consolidated Edison, the power company serving New York, said electricity should be restored by Saturday to customers in Manhattan and to homes and offices served by underground power lines in Brooklyn. More subway and rail lines started operating again Friday, and the Holland Tunnel into New York was open to buses.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said Atlantic City’s 12 casinos could reopen immediately after a nearly five-day shutdown for Superstorm Sandy. Sandy slammed into the shoreline Monday night just a few miles from Atlantic City, which was flooded and lost an old section of its word-famous boardwalk but fared much better than other parts of New Jersey’s coast.
The prospect of better times ahead did little to mollify residents who spent another day and night in the dark.
“It’s too much. You’re in your house. You’re freezing,” said Geraldine Giordano, 82, a lifelong resident of the West Village. Near her home, city employees had set up a sink where residents could get fresh water, if they needed it. There were few takers. “Nobody wants to drink that water,” Giordano said.
There was increasing worry about the elderly. Community groups have been going door-to-door on the upper floors of darkened Manhattan apartment buildings, and city workers and volunteer in hard-hit Newark, N.J., delivered meals to senior citizens and others stuck in their buildings.
“It’s been mostly older folks who aren’t able to get out,” said Monique George of Manhattan-based Community Voices Heard. “In some cases, they hadn’t talked to folks in a few days. They haven’t even seen anybody because the neighbors evacuated. They’re actually happy that folks are checking, happy to see another person. To not see someone for a few days, in this city, it’s kind of weird.”
On Thursday, police recovered the bodies of two brothers, ages 2 and 4, who were swept away after the SUV driven by their mother, Glenda Moore, stalled in Sandy’s floodwaters Monday evening.
“Terrible, absolutely terrible,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said as he announced that Brandon and Connor had been found dead. “It just compounds all the tragic aspects of this horrific event.”
The discovery was another heartbreaking blow to Staten Island, a hard-hit borough that residents complained has been largely forgotten. At least 19 people have been killed in Staten Island, about half the death toll for all of New York City.
Garbage is piling up, a stench hangs in the air and mud-caked mattresses and couches line the streets. Residents picked through their belongings, searching for anything that could be salvaged.
“We have hundreds of people in shelters,” said James Molinaro, the borough’s president. “Many of them, when the shelters close, have nowhere to go because their homes are destroyed. These are not homeless people. They’re homeless now.”
Molinaro complained the American Red Cross “is nowhere to be found,” and some residents questioned what they called the lack of a response by government disaster relief agencies.
A relief fund is being created just for storm survivors on Staten Island, Molinaro and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Friday. And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and a top Federal Emergency Management Agency official planned to tour the island.
Bloomberg on Thursday defended the decision to hold the marathon, saying electricity is expected to be restored to all of Manhattan by race day, freeing up “an enormous number of police.”
“This city is a city where we have to go on,” he said.
But Staten Island resident George Rosado blasted the city for the decision.
“It’s repulsive,” said Rosado, who spent two days scrubbing sludge from his tiled floors and was preparing to demolish the water-logged walls of his home a block from the water. He added: “They should be getting resources to the elderly people who can’t fend for themselves. That’s more important than a marathon right now.”
Along the devastated Jersey Shore, residents were allowed back in their neighborhoods Thursday for the first time since Sandy slammed the coast. Some were relieved to find only minor damage, but many others were wiped out.
“A lot of tears are being shed today,” said Dennis Cucci, whose home near the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach was heavily damaged. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling.”
Associated Press writers Cara Anna and Karen Matthews in New York, David Porter in Moonachie, N.J., and Wayne Parry in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., contributed to this story.