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Tri-State Area Motorists Face Long Lines, Possible Price Gouging In Hunt For Gas

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Lines remained unbearably long at gas stations Monday a full seven days after Superstorm Sandy hit, and motorists have been wondering when they will finally see relief at the pump.

As CBS 2's Lou Young reported, in Long Island City, Queens, gas lines were shorter than in recent days. That seemed to confirm what informed sources reported, that gas product has begun moving from previously damaged fuel terminals and powerless gas stations.

Still, anxiety has fed on itself across the region, as people gathered gas so they could look for more. The supply was reportedly adequate, but the supply chain was disrupted by the storm, and people who would normally ride around with their "E" light lit felt the need to fill up.

Gas retailers said that was the source of many of the long lines filled with frustrated customers.

Ruben DeJesus of Long Island City said he got up at 2 a.m. and spent the whole day searching for a gas station.

"All the remaining gas stations around the area were closed," DeJesus said.

Susan Hassan of Ozone Park said even though she had a quarter tank, she had to get gas so she could get to work later in the week.

"I have to go to work on Wednesday, so if I don't get it today, I'm not going to be able to get it for the whole week," Hassan said.

CBS 2 arrived at the Long Island City gas station around 4 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, the station had gone through 500 gallons of gas.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said more gas was coming to the region, but added that officials expected supplies to remain short for days.

"The supply of gasoline entering the city from interstate pipelines continues to increase," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "Barges carrying something like 21 million gallons of gasoline also unloaded at the region's terminals this weekend and there's more coming in."

Bloomberg said a police officer has been posted at every open gas station in the city to keep order and encourage owners to remain open.

There have been no restrictions in place for gas use in New York, but in New Jersey, officials have been enforcing odd-even rationing for motorists.

Still, at the Alexander Hamilton Service Area in Secaucus, the wait time varied from 15 minutes to an hour and half.

"I've been waiting for gas since Friday. This morning I went to the gas station, I was the next guy and they ran out of gas," one motorist said. "I went home, saw on the news this place open and here I am."

To avoid the crowds state police suggest drivers arrive early and avoid rush hour, but sometimes all it takes is a little bit of luck.

One driver was driving south from the George Washington Bridge when he found himself on a manageable gas line for the Delta Station on Palisades Avenue.

"It was very convenient," the driver told 1010 WINS' John Montone.

Although drivers were spending a lot more time getting gas, thankfully, they were not spending a lot more money.

Gas prices on average have risen just 3 cents in New York and 7 cents in New Jersey. While Superstorm Sandy disrupted supplies, it also lessened demand in the region.

And across the country, the price of gas was falling. After dropping 7 cents in a week -- and almost 9 percent in a month -- gas should be only slightly higher on Election Day than a year ago. That's due to a dramatic drop in the price of wholesale gasoline and low demand.

In addition to long lines and tapped out gas pumps, motorists must also be aware of alleged price gouging.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation into 400 possible cases of post-Hurricane Sandy price gouging of gasoline and other necessities in New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island.

"Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging," Schneiderman said in a statement. "We are actively investigating hundreds of complaints we've received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy, and will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives."

1010 WINS' Al Jones reports


Under state law, merchants are prohibited from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an "unconscionably excessive price" during an "abnormal disruption of the market."

The law covers retailers, including supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, bodegas, delis, and taxi and livery cab drivers.

"Our office is taking every complaint seriously," Schneiderman added.

At a gas station in White Plains, prices were listed at $4.85 for regular with higher grades selling for more than $5, 1010 WINS' Al Jones reported.

"I'm grateful to get the gas, I'm grateful for the management at the station but that price is a little outrageous," one driver said.

"This is gouging, supply-and-demand I would say would be about 30 cents less than that," another driver said.

"Unfortunately, this is the route I take pretty much every day so this is where I buy my gas, but I'm not happy about it," motorist Joann Sorkin said.

The gas station owner refused to comment on the high prices, Jones reported.

If you believe you are a victim of price gouging or a post-hurricane scam, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or find a complaint form online at:

Meanwhile, the search for gas apparently landed some people in trouble.

Suffolk County police arrested 17-year-old Jared Giacolone, of Stony Brook, for allegedly pulling a knife on a gas station worker in East Setauket on Monday morning.

Giacolone went to the BP gas station on Route 25A and got into a fight with the worker after finding out that the station was out of high-octane gas at 8:30 a.m., police said.

Giacolone pulled out a folding knife and threatened the worker after he was told to leave the station, police said. He was charged with menacing and criminal possession of a weapon.

A New Yorker frustrated by the city's gas shortage caused by Superstorm Sandy was accused of improperly transporting gasoline from Connecticut.

Police said Yunus Latif of Richmond Hill, N.Y., traveled from New York on a gas run for himself and neighbors and filled dozens of plastic five-gallon buckets with gas and put them in his van, The Connecticut Post reported.

Police said the containers were not legally approved for safety by the state and were stacked up and unsecured.

Muniruzzaman Gomosta, the gas station attendant, said he was busy and didn't notice what was happening.

He and Latif were charged with misdemeanors for violations concerning flammable or combustible liquids.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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