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Power to Manhattan, but still frustration in NYC

Associated Press Modified: November 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm •  Published: November 2, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — The Manhattan skyline could be close to fully lit for the first time since Superstorm Sandy slammed the city, a sign of progress undercut by lingering long gas lines and some angry outer-borough residents reckoning with a week or more of darkness.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday announced that the New York City Marathon was canceled amid growing criticism that this was not the time for a race while the region is still recovering from the storm.

"While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division," Bloomberg said in a joint statement with New York Road Runners head Mary Wittenberg, whose organization stages the race.

There were cheers in the streets Friday evening as the lights popped back on in several Manhattan neighborhoods that had been dark since Monday, when the storm hit. The Consolidated Edison utility said it expected power to be back on for the rest of the blackout area by Saturday.

The news is not as good for the hardest-hit neighborhoods in some suburban or beachfront sections of the city, where some customers may not have electricity until mid-November.

Among the signs of the city returning to its pre-Sandy bustle: The Long Island Rail Road offered hourly service on its four busiest branches, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty International airports operated at full service and the M and 7 subway lines partially reopened.

Still, four critical subway lines connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens remained flooded. Three more had been pumped dry, but officials were evaluating how badly they had been damaged. It was unclear when any of the tunnels might return to service.

Once Con Edison finishes restoring power to the blacked-out sections of Manhattan, however, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority anticipates being able to start running trains again south of 34th Street and to restore subway service over the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. That would allow vast numbers of Brooklyn residents to avoid having to transfer to a shuttle bus to get over the river, a switch that on Friday meant waiting in blocks-long lines for up to 30 minutes.

Police were summoned to one Brooklyn shuttle bus waiting area when a man and woman tried to cut a two-block line, one of many signs of tensions boiling over citywide.

Evangeline Pugh, a mother of four from Brooklyn's Coney Island, said she had seen people fighting while waiting in line for food on her block. Fights broke out overnight among people waiting for gas in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, according to police. In Queens, a man was accused Thursday of flashing a gun at another motorist who complained he was cutting in line.

"I guess if you are aggressive, you get something," Pugh said. "But I got a problem with punching old ladies, even if they can punch me out."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order designed to speed gasoline deliveries by waiving a state requirement that fuel tankers register and pay a tax before unloading. But there will still be long lines at the pump in the gasoline-starved city, and many stations were wreathed in yellow caution tape: a signal they had no fuel or no power.

In Brooklyn, courier Winston Alfred waited in line for gasoline for four hours overnight only to be told the station ran dry when there was one vehicle ahead of his red van.

"I didn't have enough gas to go to work. Now, I lose my day of work," he said. "I lose the hours I spent in line. I don't know what I'm going to do."

Arlend Pierre-Louis, of Elmont, just over the Queens line on Long Island, said he and his wife awoke at 4:30 a.m. to try to get gas.

"The line was four blocks long for one pump," said Pierre-Louis, who took a bus and the subway to his job in midtown after giving up. "That was the one working pump in Elmont."

Bloomberg said he recognized the frustration over the gas the shortage but said supply problems are being addressed.

"The bottom line is that the gasoline system is getting back on its feet. We can expect some lags in how quickly it improves, but I think by Monday when people stop driving as much and start taking mass transit, that will be another thing," he said.

As fall temperatures continue to dip, the power outages are expected to be a longer-term problem, with crews repairing damage to overhead lines in outer boroughs.

Mariam Santiago, a 32-year-old unemployed Coney Island mother of two girls, was at a food distribution site behind a high school to get food for her extended family of five adults and eight children. They're all squeezed into a four-room apartment on the eighth floor of a building a block from the Atlantic Ocean, after some got flooded out of their homes. People are sleeping on the floor, she said, and they're cold.

"Everything we own we're wearing," Santiago said. "It's warmer outside than in the apartment. It's like an icebox inside."

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Associated Press writers David Caruso, Michael Rubinkam, Verena Dobnik, Karen Matthews and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.