NEW YORK — A Queens man who tried to cut ahead in a gas line and pulled out a gun when another driver objected was arrested early Thursday morning, as desperate drivers turned city streets into parking lots lining up at the few gas stations still pumping fuel, officials said.
Sean M. Bailey, 35, a St. Albans resident, allegedly maneuvered his white 2010 BMW in front of another car at a Mobil station on the corner of Astoria Boulevard and 43rd Street shortly after 2:30 a.m. Thursday, the Queens District Attorney's office said.
When the unidentified 29-year-old motorist complained, Bailey allegedly pulled out a 25-caliber Phoenix Raven pistol and threatened the man. Police arrested Bailey soon after the alleged incident and found the gun in his left boot, District Attorney Richard Brown's office said.
If convicted, Bailey faces up to 15 years in prison, Brown's office said.
The alleged incident was just one illustration of the mounting frustration some New Yorkers are facing at the pumps, several days after Hurricane Sandy.
Hundreds of cars stretched from a Hess station at the corner of 10th Avenue and 45th Street in Manhattan Thursday morning, where commuters, taxi drivers and deliverymen waited hours to fuel vehicles. At 4 a.m., the scene was chaotic.
"Never in my life have I seen this," said cab driver Ashraf Daoud, 42. "I got in line at 42nd Street. I've been waiting an hour and a half. Unbelievable."
Cars spilled two-by-two from the gas station down 10th Avenue to West 40th Street. Rows of headlights filled West 45th Street to the West Side Highway, and West 46th Street to Broadway.
"This is the zombie apocalypse. It's here," joked a police officer as he monitored the scene.
Tensions ran high — and tempers short — as frustrated drivers who had waited for hours exchanged honks, gestures and shouts with those who they felt cut the line, took too much time filling gas canisters, or committed other perceived infractions.
"In a little while, I expect people to take out sticks and guns," said Rafael Garcia, 67, a driver for a TV production. He pointed to a taxi nosing its way to the front of the line.
"Look at this guy," he said. "He's scum. Does he deserve anything other than to be taken out of his car and beaten with sticks?"
Occasional small scuffles had broken out earlier, cops and drivers said.
Across the street, residents watched the scene unfold from their apartment windows, sticking their heads outside to look or snap pictures. Others took a more active role.
Omar Benaouda, 40, a stock trader and lifelong Hell's Kitchen resident, stopped to direct traffic at the station as he walked home from a late-night Halloween party.
"There's no real coordination down here," he said. "You have to help these guys. You're just trying to keep the peace."
In Queens, the scene was just as hectic.
Bronx resident Velda Bethalmie said her day off came to a screeching halt when she thought she finally found a functioning gas station at 38th Avenue and 21st Street in Long Island City, only to find they were only selling diesel — and then she stalled out just before reaching the pump.
"I don't know what I'm gonna do," she said. "I may have to sleep in my car tonight."
Bethalmie, 45, said she searched far and wide from Main Street in Flushing to Northwest Queens because she heard there was more gas there than in other areas.
"I'm beginning to think New York literally has no gas," Bethalmie said. "Yet I've heard nothing about this. Didn't the government see this coming?"
Even politicians weren't immune. Astoria Councilman Peter Vallone, who said the lack of fuel was creating a desperate situation, found himself in a tight spot on Wednesday.
“Yesterday, I did a tour of the emergency shelters and we used up all our gas,” Vallone said Thursday afternoon.
Aye Eyeaa, who manages the Shell station at 39th Street and Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, said he has received shipments of gas — but they're flying out of the pumps.
"Some people get angry," he said. "They don't understand that I want to be selling gas. I want to be making money."
Eyeaa said his station took in 12,000 gallons of gas Wednesday night — several days' supply in normal circumstances — but that it was all gone in a matter of hours. He said Shell's corporate offices were being vague about when the next shipment might come.
When gas did finally arrive later Thursday afternoon, cars quickly converged, stretching in a long line down 39th Street.
"It's a glorious sight," said Spiros Stavroulakis, who came to fill up his tank. "I've been waiting since 9:30 this morning to smell that smell."
Stavroulakis, who was headed to his job at the Gothic Cabinet Craft headquarters in Maspeth when he realized he was on "E," said he stalled out in the station just before noon Thursday after striking out at about 10 stations.
"People were asking me if I needed a tow," he said. "I told them, 'Unless you're going to tow me to a place with gas, what good is that going to do?'"
He added he was taking the shortage in stride.
"I'm still working," he joked. "Ain't my fault New York's running out of gas."