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More Long Lines at the Pump, But Help is Coming, Governor Says

NEW YORK CITY — Drivers across the city continued to wait on long gas lines on Sunday, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to soothe anxieties about dwindling fuel supplies in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Cuomo told New Yorkers during a Sunday morning briefing that more tankers were docking soon at local ports, but he warned that the fresh supply would not completely solve the problem and urged drivers to be patient.

"Now is not the time to be using the car when you don't need to," Cuomo said. "Now is not the time to be hoarding fuel."

Howard Beach resident William Montalvo, 40, got in line at a station in Cypress Hills to get gas for his generator at 9 p.m. Saturday. At 12:30 a.m., when there were just 10 people in front of him, the tanks ran dry.

Montalvo said he slept for a few hours and tried again at a station at Atlantic Avenue and Hendrix Street at 4 a.m. Sunday. The gas there ran out at 8:30 a.m.

"I still haven't gotten gas," he said. 

Construction worker Gary Ryan, 23, waited to fill up two five-gallon gas cans at Cross Bay Boulevard and 134th Avenue for three hours — wearing only jeans and a T-shirt despite the falling temperature. He said he didn't believe officials who said the problem would be fixed within days.

"It's always a different story about what the problem is," he said. "They say it's going to come tomorrow and it never does." 

At a Hess station on 11th Avenue and 45th Street on Sunday, a line of cars stretched for five blocks down 11th. Despite the long lines, there were few incidents, the station's manager said.

"It's orderly because the police were here," said the manager, Dennis Boodren, 42. "If the police weren't here it would have been a mess."

Eugene Portnoy, a cab driver from Brighton Beach, was one of those waiting on line, lamenting the lack of gas.

"I haven't worked for six days," Portnoy said. "What am I going to do? I have a mortgage to pay. It's very bad."  

At a Mobil station near Neptune Avenue and West 18th Sttreet in the Rockaways, where locals were still dealing with flooding and no power, some drivers were just glad to see gas returning to the hard-hit area.

"I never thought I'd say this after waiting on line for a half hour for gas, but this was really not that bad," said Nadine Blake, 38, as she approached the end of the line.

On Staten Island, which was also devastated by the storm, volunteers gave out free coffee to those waiting at the Mobil station on Victory Boulevard and Willowbrook Road.  

But on the long line for gas, some drivers who had already filled up kept trying to get back in the line, causing arguments that almost broke out into fights, manager Yaron Halevi said.  

"People were setting the rules for how a line for a gas can should be," he said. "They didn't speak in a respectful tone."  

In Sunset Park, at a Hess gas station on Fourth Avenue and 30th Street, employees said about 4,000 gallons of gas were sold in six or seven hours on Sunday, before the station ran dry at 4 p.m. Cars were limited to $30 of gas each and people carrying containers were limited to $20 of gas each.

Cops from the NYPD's 72nd Precinct across the street kept order while the line of cars filed slowly through.

One of those waiting was Noel Madera, 57, an unemployed maintenance worker from Far Rockaway who was driving his mother's Toyota because his own Malibu was flooded in the hurricane. He said he nearly drowned when water submerged his car.

On Saturday night, Madera went to a gas station because he needed to drive his brother to the doctor, and waited two hours for two gallons. On Sunday, his tank was nearly empty again.

"It's terrible, but you don't have no choice," Madera said of the wait.

Madera didn't make it to the front of the line before the Hess station ran out of gas.

One of the lucky ones was Omaira Aguirre of Gerritsen Beach, whose home flooded, though she says she and her neighbors live in a Zone B, where evacuations weren't mandatory.

Aguirre waited for five hours Saturday night at a Sheepshead Bay station, but it ran out of gas. On Sunday, she trekked to Sunset Park with her husband, hauling two large containers to get gas to run a generator in her house.

"This is so crazy," Aguirre said. "We never prepared for this."

"[But] I don't need anything," she added. "We are alive, and we can start over."