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Lights in lower Manhattan, misery in outer regions

By Michael Rubinkam

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Nov. 3 2012 8:55 p.m. MDT

Gas rationing went into effect at noon in 12 counties of northern New Jersey, where police enforced rules to allow only motorists with odd-numbered license plates to refuel. Those with even-numbered plates would get their turn Sunday.

Jessica Tisdale, of Totowa, waited in her Mercedes SUV for 40 minutes at a gas station in Jersey City, but didn't quite understand the system and was ordered to pull away because of her even-numbered plate.

"Is it the number or the letter?" she asked around 12:10 p.m. "I don't think it's fair. I've been in the line since before noon. ...There's no clarity." The officer who waved her out of line threw up his hands and shrugged.

At an Exxon station in Wall, N.J., Kathryn Davidson, who had an even-numbered plate, got gas anyway by beating the noon deadline.

"How are people supposed to know?" said Davidson, 53, who said it reminded her of the 1970s, when a similar plan was in place.

President Barack Obama visited the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an update on recovery efforts and said: "There's nothing more important than us getting this right."

He cited the need to restore power; pump out water, particularly from electric substations; ensure that basic needs are addressed; remove debris; and get federal resources in place to help transportation systems come back on line.

More than 2.6 million people remained without power in several states after Sandy came ashore Monday night.

About 900,000 people still didn't have electricity in the New York metropolitan area, including about 550,000 on Long Island, Cuomo said. About 80 percent of New York City's subway service has been restored, he added.

The restoration of power beat the sunrise Saturday in the West Village, though just barely. Electricity arrived at 4:23 a.m., said Adam Greene, owner of Snack Taverna, a popular eatery.

"This morning, I took a really long, hot shower," he said.

Greene said one woman had stopped in Saturday to drop off $10 for the staff, saying she regretted she didn't have enough cash to tip adequately during the blackout.

He joked that 28th Street, above which had power, was like "Checkpoint Charlie."

"You crossed 28th Street and people were living a comfortable life," Greene said. "Down here it was dark and cold."

Throughout the West Village, people were emerging from their hibernation, happy to regain their footing. Stores started to reopen. Signs at a Whole Foods Market promised that fresh meat and poultry and baked goods would return Sunday.

Aida Padilla was thrilled that the power at her large housing authority complex in Chelsea had returned late Friday. "Thank God," said Padilla, 75. "I screamed and I put the lights on. Everybody was screaming. It was better than New Year's."

Asked about whether she had heat, she replied, "Hot and cold water and heat! Thank God, Jesus!"

Some lower Manhattan residents, however, were still without steam heat.

Michael Cornelison, 42, who works in IT, was glad power was back in his downtown apartment. But he said he had taken advantage of the darkness, too.

"It was nice to disconnect this week," Cornelison said. "I slept a lot." He added that he'd watched movies on his laptop, including "Hurricane in the Bayou."

New York City's parks reopened Saturday, and with Sunday's New York City Marathon canceled, many of the runners who had come to town for the race worked out their frustrations with a jog through Central Park, the site of the finish line that won't be used.

Others scrambled to rebook return flights.

Bloomberg reversed himself Friday and yielded to mounting criticism about running the race, which starts on hard-hit Staten Island and wends through all five of the city's boroughs.

In his first comments since canceling the marathon, Bloomberg said he'd fought to keep it going but the controversy was becoming "so divisive" and too much of a distraction.

"I still think that we had the resources to do both, and that we want people to be able to take a break and that sort of thing. ... It's a big part of our economy," Bloomberg told WCBS-TV during a visit to Queens. As he spoke, he was met by catcalls from residents angry about the city's response to the storm.

Many runners understood the decision, especially with the death toll from the storm at 106, including 40 in New York City. The destruction and power outages made many New Yorkers recoil at the idea of police protecting a foot race and evicting storm victims from hotels to make way for runners. More than half of the 40,000 runners were from out of town.

Some runners, though, vowed to never enter New York again. Pia Nielsen, who flew in from Copenhagen, said city and race officials would have to regain her trust.

But Lucy Marquez said she would come back, even as tears filled her eyes at the thought of the three young children she left at home in Mexico to run in her first marathon — a race her father competed in 12 years ago.

"Shock. Denial. Rage," she said. "I love New York City. This is the marathon I want to run."

Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Wall, N.J.; Katie Zezima in Jersey City, N.J., and Verena Dobnik, AJ Connelly and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.

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