Behind New York Gas Lines, Warnings and Crossed Fingers
The return of 1970s-era gas lines to the five boroughs of New York City was not the result of a single miscalculation, but a combination of missed opportunities, ignored warnings and a lack of decisiveness by city and state officials that produced a deepening crisis and a sense of frustration.
Even before Hurricane Sandy came ashore, city and state officials moved quickly to shut down a sprawling transit system and order mass evacuations. But heading off a potential gas shortage seemed to be a low priority, if one at all, according to government officials, industry experts and gas station owners.
When confronted with gas lines that were growing exponentially and reports of fuel terminals in disrepair, city and state officials who huddled with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday were unable to come to a decision to ration gas, as New Jersey had done the previous day.
Instead, these officials seemed to cross their fingers that somehow the gas supply would improve and that they would be able to avoid resurrecting unpleasant memories of the 1970s. Mr. Cuomo was said to be especially lukewarm, according to several people who were present at or were briefed on the discussion. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, these people also said, talked about odd-even rationing and also mused aloud in the Sunday meeting that perhaps the best option was to simply allow the free market to dictate how people would find gas.