New York City Rations Gas Sales; Mayor Cites Shortage

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[Hurricane Sandy Update]

The following are remarks made by New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg today as submitted by the mayor's press office

I wanted to bring everyone up to date on the effect of yesterday’s nor’easter before turning to our ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

This latest storm produced, as had been predicted, minor flooding, and concerns about that did prompt some residents in shorefront areas to leave their homes – in some cases, for the second time in less than two weeks – but it has passed.

The storm also, as you would expect, brought down more trees and tree limbs on our streets and in our parks, and knocked out power for thousands of Con Ed customers in our city, some of whom may have only recently had their lights turned back on.

And the snow that we got – in some places up to six inches – as everybody knows, made getting around town last night pretty difficult.
Thankfully, our recovery from this storm should be relatively swift, and we’re still left with the problem of recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

New York City parks, playgrounds, beaches all will remain closed today. The wet, heavy snow that fell on trees really does create potential dangers in our parks. There are still a lot of leaves on trees and that holds the snow and that just gets more weight on the limbs, and more likelihood of a tree falling down.

We expect the majority of City parks, however, and playgrounds to be open by tomorrow morning, after they’ve been inspected for safety. Some may not be, and just going to have to be patient while we get in people to take down the trees and limbs that look like they’re in danger of falling on somebody.

City beaches have experienced a lot of erosion from recent storms and they will not be open at all. If you want to go to the parks, check 311 or the Parks Department webpage at for further details.

Outdoor construction work, which we had suspended citywide in advance of yesterday’s storm, did resume this morning.
Now let me turn to the recovery from Sandy: I want to announce some measures that we think will make life easier for motorists in the city.

The gasoline shortages, as many of you know, remain a real problem for drivers throughout our region. Last week’s storm hit refineries hard – and knocked out some of the critical infrastructure that is needed to distribute the gasoline.

Refineries, terminals, and pipelines have come back online, but not all of them and they’ve been working hard over the past few weeks to increase the supply of gas, but it is still nowhere near enough.

Last week we worked with the Port Authority and the Coast Guard to open up our port as quickly as possible, to get fuel on barges already at terminals to be unloaded. We worked with the federal government to temporarily lift the Jones Act and allow more fuel to arrive in our port from foreign-flagged vessels.

But once again, clearly it is not enough. Only 25 percent of gas stations, we estimate, are open. Drivers are still facing long lines. Frustrations are only growing. And it now appears that there will be shortages for possibly another couple weeks.

The best way we think to cut down the lines and help customers buy gas faster, to help gas stations stay open longer, and to reduce the potential for disorder is to alternate the days that drivers can purchase gas.

So earlier this afternoon, I signed an Emergency Order stating that, beginning 6 am tomorrow morning, drivers in New York City who have license plates that end in an odd number or end in a letter or other character will be able to buy gas or diesel only on odd-numbered days – such as tomorrow, which happens to be the 9th.

Those with license plates ending in an even number, or the number zero, will be able to buy gas or diesel only on even-numbered days, such as Saturday, November 10th.

Police officers will be deployed to gas stations to help enforce the new order – but we expect, as with the smoking ban, that New Yorkers will respect the rule and social pressure will help ensure compliance.

Some vehicles are exempt from the order: authorized emergency vehicles; buses; para-transit vehicles; commercial vehicles; taxicabs and for-hire vehicles licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission; and cars with medical doctor license plates.

And for those that want to change license plates, the police can easily look at your registration on the windshield to find out if you’ve don’t that, so don’t try to be cute. This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance that the lines aren’t too oppressive and that we can get through this.

This is not a step that we take lightly – but given the shortages we will face over the next few weeks, and the growing frustrations of New Yorkers – we believe it is the right step.

It has worked well in New Jersey. And although the shortages are more severe here, because we are further down the supply chain, we believe it will help mitigate the worst of our problems. I am told that Nassau and Westchester Counties are doing the same thing.

I understand it’s going to create inconveniences, but I ask New Yorkers to continue being patient. And we will continue doing everything we can to work with the industry and our state and federal partners to get the supply of gasoline back to normal.

Turning to the restoration of electrical power: At this point, some 70,000 Con Ed customers don’t have the lights on, many because of Sandy, and a handful, probably 10,000 is our estimate, from the storm last night. And approximately 40,000 customers of the Long Island Power Authority remain without power.

Con Ed and LIPA continue to make progress in restoring power, although as we explained yesterday, much of the problem now is that buildings where switches and wires were damaged by flooding and salt water aren’t yet safe to be re-electrified.

I am glad to say that we’re also continuing to make progress restoring power and other essential services to residents of public housing.
Yesterday, because of actions we took, the lights came back on for 1,174 residents of eight buildings in public housing. That means that today, power has been restored to 82 percent of the buildings where it went out after Sandy.

In addition, yesterday, we were able to get heat and hot water restored to 1,658 residents of nine buildings in public housing. That means that these services have been restored to 70 percent of the buildings that lost heat and hot water during the day.

I’m not sure we can make it, but our expectation is that by the weekend all of these buildings will have electricity, which means they then have water, because remember there was no water above roughly the sixth floor if there isn’t the ability to pump water up. And also, that they will have heat by sometime early next week.

There always could be one or two buildings where the damage is so severe that we can’t get it going, but we are optimistic; the progress we’ve been making is great progress.

We’re also moving closer to getting privately owned homes and businesses ready for re-occupancy.

To date, inspectors from our Buildings Department have looked at some 58,000 buildings of an estimated 70,000 buildings that may have been structurally damaged by Sandy. And the good news is that their estimate of 89 percent of the ones inspected so far have been determined to be structurally safe.

In some cases, however, the next big challenge is making sure that homes and businesses that were flood-damaged can get their utility services turned back on. Just because it’s structurally safe doesn’t mean that it has electricity, and as I said earlier, it’s simply not safe to re-electrify buildings where salt water has damaged switches and wiring.
Buildings Department employees, electrical contractors, and representatives of the utility companies have done more than 1,000 inspections of such buildings, and that work is continuing.
Until the power comes back on for all New Yorkers, our recovery efforts will continue to focus on getting emergency help to people who need it most.
Today, as we have for the past week, we’ve provided tens of thousands of prepared meals, bottles of fresh water, blankets, and other essential supplies to New Yorkers who still don’t have electric power in their homes.
We’re doing that from noon to 4 pm today at nine distribution sites and also through NYC Service volunteers and members of the National Guard who are going door-to-door in our hard-hit communities.
Again today, food trucks are also providing free hot meals in these areas until 4 pm. Yesterday, they served about 3,000 people. We’re also deploying mobile medical vans in these neighborhoods; they’re staffed with primary medical care providers and stocked with commonly prescribed drugs.
At the same time, we are also making progress in bringing conditions in these communities back to normal.
As I’ve said throughout the week, a big focus is on continuing to clear out hundreds of thousands of tons of debris that Sandy – and now yesterday’s nor’easter – left on streets and in parks, playgrounds, and beaches.
Just to give you some feel for how huge this task is: The volume of work we’ve done on removing downed trees and limbs in the 11 days since Sandy hit has been more than twice as large as it was following last year’s Hurricane Irene. The Parks Department has just been doing tremendous work in our city over the past ten days.
We’ve also made big strides in clearing out storm sewers and catch basins – more than 2,800 have been inspected and cleaned – fixing damaged fire hydrants and traffic signals, and making other important repairs.
So in short: We’re making progress in getting life back to normal for more and more New Yorkers. Unfortunately, as after a big storm like last night, it can be two steps forward and one back. But we are heading in the right direction.
If you haven’t gotten your power back, if your street isn’t clean, there’s no consolation in the fact that lots of others have and have had their streets cleaned, but we are going down the list and doing it as quickly as we can and as safely as we can.
The dedication of the employees of the City to continue to work is something that I think is more than admirable – it’s what I’ve always expected, but nevertheless a big thank you to all of them.
And also, things are getting better even in other areas. I saw that the Governor announced that the Midtown Tunnel will be open as of tomorrow. That’s great news. The State has been a good partner with us and they’ve done a really good job on mass transit and that makes it much easier to get around.

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