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Cuomo touts new emergency gas distribution system

Gov. Andrew Cuomo flips a transfer switch at

Gov. Andrew Cuomo flips a transfer switch at the Hess gas station on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station to demonstrate how portable emergency generators could be quickly and easily hooked up to gas stations. (Oct. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

More than 250 downstate gas stations -- including nearly 100 on Long Island -- are taking steps that will allow them to keep pumping during major power outages, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

Cuomo said 258 stations are adding transfer switches needed to connect to generators. Thirty-nine of those stations are in Nassau and 58 in Suffolk, he said.

The governor made the announcement while appearing with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at a Port Jefferson gas station.

Cuomo marked one year since superstorm Sandy, touring damaged transportation infrastructure and discussing details of the state's new emergency gasoline distribution system.

The storm crippled the region's fuel delivery system, and power outages knocked out both filling pumps and pipelines that carry gas to fuel depots. Drivers formed long lines at the few gas stations with fuel for weeks after the storm.

"It was terrible what we went through, and hopefully we learned from it," Cuomo said. "We have to be prepared."

Under the new distribution system, Cuomo and Bellone said, up to 3 million gallons of fuel will be stored on Long Island for emergencies. Long Island's emergency fuel supply is located at Northville Industries.

The law requires gas stations within a half-mile of highway exits and hurricane evacuation routes to install transfer switches and to activate generators within 24 hours after losing power, Cuomo said.

Gas stations that receive a building permit on or after April 1, 2014, are required to have transfer switches or generators, he said.

More than 1,000 gas stations statewide -- including at least 370 on Long Island -- will have to install transfer switches by April 1, said a Cuomo spokeswoman.

The new requirements affect more than half of the gas stations on Long Island, New York City, and Westchester and Rockland counties.

Transfer switches typically cost between $6,000 and $10,000, an aide said. Grants are available up to $10,000. Financially strapped stations may apply for state grants and credits to purchase the equipment, and small gas stations can file for exemptions, he said.

Bellone described Sandy as "a storm that overwhelmed even our best emergency measures and left communities upended."

Cuomo acknowledged that many homeowners and businesses are struggling a year after the storm slammed the region. But he was optimistic, saying Sandy brought out New Yorkers' "spirit of generosity. That's one of the memories after Sandy that I'll cherish," the governor said. "There was a lot of bad, but there was a lot of good."

Earlier, Cuomo toured several sites devastated by Sandy -- including the New York City subway system and LaGuardia Airport -- and looked at measures planned, and underway, to protect them from the next storm. At some of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's worst-flooded subway stations in lower Manhattan, workers demonstrated an inflatable, impenetrable 30-foot tunnel plug and a horizontal cover that can seal off a subway station stairway entrance.

"Sometimes it takes a crisis for society to appreciate a new reality," Cuomo said at a panel discussion at the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan that kicked off his tour. "We learned the lesson the hard way, but we get that there's something different going on. . . . There is a new normal."

Cuomo said that while strengthening New York's transportation network will take several years, he does not expect money to be a concern. The $60 billion in Sandy aid passed by Congress -- more than half of which is earmarked for New York -- is "enough," Cuomo said.

"This is one of the rare occasions where the issue is really not about funding," Cuomo said at LaGuardia Airport, where he checked out work on a new substation. "It's not going to be about the money. It is going to be about the technology. And this is a massive undertaking."


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