The gasoline shortage in the New York City area should be over in "a couple more days," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday, urging New Yorkers to be patient even as officials promised free gas only to then add this caveat: first responders first, then the public can line up. Electrical power and deliveries are coming back online, Bloomberg said at a press conference, but even so "it may take a few more days before you see this additional supply."
Earlier Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that "fuel is on the way" with the Department of Defense deploying five mobile fuel stations to New York City and Long Island, albeit with a 10 gallon limit. "The good news," Cuomo said of the promised 12 million gallons, "is it's going to be free." At least 1,000 drivers queued up at one site -- the Freeport Armory in Long Island -- only to be told the gasoline would not arrive for at least eight hours more, one driver said. "There's just so many people getting very frustrated. People don't know what to do,'' said Lauren Popkoff, a teacher who Had been in line for four hours.
The mobile station that opened in Queens was also swamped, NBCNewYork.com reported, with a line of cars stretching 20 blocks. But the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs later issued an advisory asking the public to stay away from the mobile stations until more fuel is released. National Guard Col. Richard Goldenberg said Saturday afternoon that people who were already at the distribution sites would not be turned away. Cuomo added that the reopening of New York Harbor has provided 8 million gallons of fuel and another 28 million will be delivered over the next two days.
A third of the stations in New York City were closed Saturday due to power outages or lack of fuel -- a significant improvement from Friday when two thirds were closed. When word of free gas spread Saturday, people rushed to the mobile stations. "I left my coffee on the table and ran out," said Tatiana Gomez of Staten Island, who heard about it on the news while having breakfast. Her's was the sixth car in line but she still had to wait 2 1/2 hours for the delivery to arrive. National Guardsmen walked through the crowd, handing out water to those waiting. "I think since 9/11 we've pulled together as people," Robert Costantino said while in line. "Now, when there's a crisis, we pull together." Long lines also continued at regular gas stations.