Exasperation builds on Day 3

  • Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 12:08 a.m.
Tunisia Wragg, left, a staff member with New York Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, checks a cell phone at a charging station that the assemblyman's office brought to Confucius Plaza in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York, N.Y., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Hundreds of thousands in New York City alone were still without power Thursday, especially in Lower Manhattan, which remained in the dark roughly south of the Empire State Building after floodwaters had knocked out power. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

NEW YORK — Frustration — and in some cases fear — mounted in New York City on Thursday, three days after Superstorm Sandy. Traffic backed up for miles at bridges, large crowds waited impatiently for buses into Manhattan, and tempers flared in gas lines.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city would send bottled water and ready-to-eat meals into the hardest-hit neighborhoods through the weekend, but some New Yorkers grew dispirited after days without power, water and heat and decided to get out.

“It’s dirty, and it’s getting a little crazy down there,” said Michael Tomeo, who boarded a bus to Philadelphia with his 4-year-old son. “It just feels like you wouldn’t want to be out at night. Everything’s pitch-dark. I’m tired of it, big-time.”

Rima Finzi-Strauss decided to take bus to Washington. When the power went out Monday night in her apartment building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, it also disabled the electric locks on the front door, she said.

“We had three guys sitting out in the lobby last night with candlelight, and very threatening folks were passing by in the pitch-black,” she said. “And everyone’s leaving. That makes it worse.”

The mounting despair came even as the subways began rolling again after a three-day shutdown. Service was restored to most of the city, but not the most stricken parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, where the tunnels were flooded.

Bridges into the city were open, but police enforced a carpooling rule and peered into windows to make sure each car had at least three people. The rule was meant to ease congestion but appeared to worsen it. Traffic jams stretched for miles, and drivers who made it into the city reported that some people got out of their cars to argue with police.

With only partial subway service, lines at bus stops swelled. More than 1,000 people packed the sidewalk outside an arena in Brooklyn, waiting for buses to Manhattan. Nearby, hundreds of people massed on a sidewalk.

When a bus pulled up, passengers rushed the door. A transit worker banged on a bus window, yelled at people inside, and then yelled at people in the line.

With the electricity out and gasoline supplies scarce, many gas stations across the New York area remained closed, and stations that were open drew long lines of cars that spilled out onto roads. At a station near Coney Island, almost 100 cars lined up, and people shouted and honked, and a station employee said he had been spit on and had coffee thrown at him.

The storm killed at least 90 people in the U.S. New York City raised its death toll on Thursday to 38, including two Staten Island boys, 2 and 4, swept from their mother’s arms by the floodwaters.

In New Jersey, many people were allowed back into their neighborhoods Thursday for the first time since Sandy ravaged the coastline. Some found minor damage, others total destruction. The storm cut off barrier islands, smashed homes, wrecked boardwalks and hurled amusement park rides into the sea. Atlantic City, on a barrier island, remained under mandatory evacuation.

More than 4.6 million homes and businesses, including about 650,000 in New York and its northern suburbs, were still without power. Consolidated Edison, the power company serving New York, said electricity should be restored by Saturday to customers in Manhattan and to homes and offices served by underground power lines in Brooklyn.

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