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Long Island BP stations suffer oil spill backlash

David Duras fills up with gas at the

David Duras fills up with gas at the BP Station in North Massapequa. (June 17, 2010) Credit: Photo by Pablo Corradi

At the North Babylon BP gas station, co-owner Steve Weiner passes out fliers to customers explaining how his parent company is doing "everything in our power to stop the flow of oil, minimize the impact and keep the public informed."

Weiner says that has not been enough to stop incidents like the one where a patron who stopped at the station to use the bathroom told customers, "Don't buy anything here. This is BP."

At BP stations throughout Long Island, owners and employees say they're feeling the impact of the public's resentment toward the British company responsible for the oil spill that has ravaged the Gulf Coast. And as boycotts against the 10,000 BP stations nationwide grow, franchise owners say the backlash is misguided and unfair.

"I try to tell them, 'Listen, I had nothing to do with this,' " said Weiner, 48, of Plainview, who has dropped prices in recent weeks to attract customers but is still losing business to other gas stations. "If BP goes bankrupt, they're not going to pay for the cleanup . . . So if anything, you should be spending more money at BP."

At a Plainedge BP station, manager Ali Khan said business is down a bit, but most of his customer base has remained loyal - even as protesters with picket signs recently organized outside his establishment.

"If you boycott BP, you are not hurting the main BP center. You are hurting the local business owner," said Khan, 56.

David Duras saw it the same way as he pulled his Honda Civic into a North Massapequa BP station he has frequented for years. "I don't think this man inside is responsible," said Duras, 43, of Massapequa, who works near the station as a wireless consultant, referring to station owner Iqbal Hossain. "He's a Long Islander, so why should we boycott him?"

But Caroline Fanning, 28, felt little sympathy for BP operators - even as she reluctantly filled up her Nissan sport utility vehicle at an East Farmingdale BP station. With an empty tank and a crying baby in the backseat, she said she had no choice.

"My gut tells me they deserve anything that's coming their way," said Fanning, of Amityville, who felt BP's actions since the spill are too little, too late. "They put profits over safety."

Petroleum broker Joseph Macchia, who was at the station on business, said its owners have received some complaints but business has held steady since the station opened - a month ago.

"Good timing, huh?" he said.

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