2012-11-07 / Front Page

Gas Pains: Armed Motorist Busted At Astoria Pump

By Liz Goff

Federal and state officials are making urgent moves to ease long lines and short tempers at gas stations throughout Queens and the rest of the city.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the Port of New York has reopened for fuel shipments. Cuomo has also waived registration fees and tax requirements for fuel tankers pulling into New York Harbor to help expedite delivery of gasoline.

Sen. Charles Schumer last week reached out to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to appeal for emergency supplies of Pentagon fuel for New York City. Schumer told reporters the paperwork is done. “What we need now is to get gas flowing through the Port of New York and into city gas stations,” Schumer said.

The Department of Defense is sending 24 million gallons of gas and diesel fuel to the metropolitan area, city officials said. “Every bit counts,” an aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “More gas is available this week and power has been restored to gas stations throughout the city, allowing them to pump the gas.

“We are asking people to remain calm as things begin to get back to normal,” the aide said.

Many motorists who waited for hours last weekend to reach gas pumps in Long Island City and Astoria told the Gazette they’re tired and frustrated, but thankful that the long lines are their only hurricane related problem.

“People lost everything, just everything they had,” said Astoria resident Phillip Maldonado. “Everyone is fighting over a place in line, or they’re complaining about how the gas shortage has inconvenienced them,” Maldonado said.

“I can wait on a line, fill my gas tank and go home,” he added. “How many people have no home to go to? It’s time for people to act like adults and be reasonable about all this.”

Stress added to frustration at a gas station on 41st Avenue in Long Island City on November 3, where motorists wrestled with container-toting people who tried to cut in line.

Bleary-eyed motorists who had waited for hours on a line that snaked along six blocks fought off people who tried to grab a hose to fill their gas cans, eyewitnesses said. “These guys had to be kidding,” one motorist said.

“We were waiting for hours and we finally got to the pumps at 3:20 a.m., and they walked up and tried to pull the hose from our hands,” the motorist said. “Either they’re kidding or they’re nuts.”

The station manager and several employees separated the two groups, handing the hose to the motorist and forming a line for “walk-up” customers in another part of the station.

“Things are going to get really nasty,” one motorist told the Gazette. “These guys think everybody is stupid. They park their cars across the street or around the corner and walk over to fill up their gas cans.

“Their cars aren’t out of gas. They just don’t want to wait on line like everybody else,” the motorist said. “They think they can get over on everybody.”

The same problem was apparent at most gas stations in the area, including a Hess station on Northern Boulevard near Steinway Street, where police have been stationed to monitor conditions and keep the peace.

“Flashing lights on the police cars seem to settle people down,” a station manager said. “I guess they feel safer with the police on hand, or they realize they better settle down.”

Police at the 114th Precinct arrested a 35-year-old Queens man on November 1 after he pulled a gun and threatened motorists at a Mobil station on 43rd Street and Astoria Boulevard in Astoria.

Line jumper Scott Bailey cut in line at the station and pulled a .25-caliber pistol when another driver approached him to complain, police said.

“If you don’t pull back, you’re not getting gas tonight,” Bailey told the driver.

Bailey, of St. Alban’s, Queens was charged with menacing and criminal possession of a weapon at his arraignment at Queens Criminal Court where he was ordered held on $50,000 bond.

Law enforcement sources said Bailey has a long history of arrests and six felony convictions in Virginia, for weapons possession.

The driver filed a complaint and was granted a full order of protection against Bailey, ordering the gunman to stay away from the man.

Cops in Woodhaven arrested a 21-year-old driver – also on November 1, charged with menacing after he threatened a 43-year-old man with a bat at a Mobil station on Woodhaven Boulevard, police said.

Nicholas Vulcan cut into a gas line at a station on Queens Boulevard, telling the next customer in line, “Let me in or I am going to kill you,” police said.

Actions of most motorists on the lines were not defined by the violence, a police source said. “Most people are spending the time reading, texting, or listening to news or talk shows,” the source said. “Nobody likes waiting on line to get gas, but most people are resigned to it. They just want to get the gas and get on with their lives,” the source said.

Motorists waiting on line to fill up at a Gulf station on Skillman Avenue in Long Island City found a different way to vent their frustration on Sunday evening.

Drivers jumped from their vehicles when a fuel truck pulled into the station at about 9 p.m. on November 4 and started applauding, whistling and honking their horns in a welcoming tribute to the fuel delivery.

“The truck driver didn’t know what was going on at first,” a police source said. “The poor guy jumped back into the truck and watched the crowd to make sure it was safe for him to get out,” the source said. The driver waited inside the truck until police assured him the crowd was “friendly,” the source said.

“Hey, it’s here,” motorist Jeff Connor told the Gazette. “The trucks seem to be coming more frequently now,” he said. “You have to be grateful for small favors.”

Motorists seeking information on gas station hours of operation, gas availability and related maters can visit www.gasbuddy.com for continuing updates.


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