New York City mayor defends move to hold marathon, tempers boil

By Meghan Barr

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 2 2012 1:19 p.m. MDT

People line up at a gas station waiting to fill up, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in Newark, N.J. In parts of New York and New Jersey, drivers lined up early Friday for hours at gas stations that were struggling to stay supplied. The power outages and flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy have forced many gas stations to close and disrupted the flow of fuel from refineries to those stations that are open.

Julio Cortez, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Manhattan skyline is expected to be mostly lit for the first time since Superstorm Sandy slammed New York City, a sign of progress undercut by lingering long gas lines and angry outer-borough residents reckoning with a week or more of darkness.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday defended his decision to hold the New York City Marathon as scheduled amid a continuing backlash. Some New Yorkers complain that going ahead with the 26.2-mile race on Sunday would be insensitive and divert city resources at a time when many are suffering.

"You have to keep going and doing things. ... You can grieve and you can cry and you can laugh and that's what human beings are good at," Bloomberg said at a news conference. "New York has to show that we are here and we are going to recover," and can help businesses and people at the same time.

Bloomberg said the marathon would "give people something to cheer about in what has been a very dismal week for a lot of people."

The mayor said Con Edison hoped to resolve most Manhattan outages by midnight Friday. The news is not as good for the city's outer boroughs, where customers may not have electricity until mid-November.

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 young brothers 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 dry when it was almost their turn. Others 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 station early Friday in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, the line snaked at least 10 blocks through narrow, 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 gas 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. Still, across the New York metropolitan area, there were signs that life was beginning to return to something approaching normal.

More subway and rail lines started operating again Friday, and the Holland Tunnel into New York was open to buses.

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