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State: No free gas at Freeport Armory

Police disperse the line that formed for a

Police disperse the line that formed for a incoming gasoline tanker at the New York State Armory. (Nov. 3, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Freeport Armory -- one of five metropolitan New York sites where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier Saturday announced there would be fuel trucks -- will not be provided gasoline at all Saturday, state military officials said.

The pumper used for the 5,000-gallon truck that had been expected at the Babylon Turnpike site never showed, "so they could not pump from Freeport," state National Guard spokesman Col. Richard Goldenberg said.

He could not say whether free gasoline would be available there Sunday -- either to the public or first-responders -- and said the truck and pumper were Federal Emergency Management Agency assets.

Authorities turned away motorists who joined the long line at the Freeport Armory to wait for the gas Cuomo had promised in a morning news conference, saying there would be none Saturday.

The public should stay away entirely from the other free fuel sites, because emergency personnel and first-responder vehicles have priority, military officials said Saturday afternoon.

Trucks with the fuel provided by the U.S. Department of Defense and distributed by the National Guard were arriving at designated armory sites in, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island on Saturday afternoon, according to an advisory by the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.

But the fuel would not be immediately available to the public, officials said.

"Due to long lines and high demand, emergency personnel and first responder vehicles are being given priority," the advisory read. "We request that the public not proceed to these facilities until additional fuel is released by the Department of Defense."

Goldenberg said authorities in Staten Island began turning away the public at about 3 p.m., though those already in line were to receive fuel.

Police in New York City and in Long Island "are going to make local decisions that are best for each location, and they're going to do so with residents' best intentions at heart," he said.

FEMA had pushed the dispatch of the trucks to New York, but, "There was a tremendous turnout of local residents, so much so that it became impractical to think that we would serve both local members of the community and first responders."

Long lines of vehicles and pedestrians formed Saturday after Cuomo announced in the morning that the military was opening the mobile fuel stations.

At the Freeport Armory, hundreds of civilian motorists in vehicles lined up for hours midday -- only to be told by police that there had been a miscommunication, and no gas would be available to the public.

A Cuomo aide said he could not immediately comment on what was happening, and a police spokeswoman said she did not know how officers at the scene learned there would be no gas for the public.

At an early morning news conference, Cuomo said that "fuel is on its way" to storm-battered New York, where miles-long lines have formed at Long Island gas stations amid a daunting shortage. He asked residents not to panic.

Temporary fuel trucks were in route Saturday morning to "key locations" in Long Island and New York City to ease gasoline demand, Cuomo said.

The trucks would arrive sometime Saturday afternoon with free fuel for emergency vehicles and the public, he said, adding that residents will soon see widespread relief as millions more gallons of fuel make their way through the region in upcoming days.

Cuomo had said vehicles could fill up directly from the 5,000-gallon trucks, which in Long Island was at the Freeport Armory, at 63 Babylon Tpke. There is a 10-gallon limit per vehicle and the gas would be free, he said.

That's the location where at about 3 p.m. police officers began telling the hundreds of people looking for gas that none would be distributed there.

Still more gas will be arriving and residents will feel regionwide relief as fuel tankers dock in New York Harbor, Cuomo said in a morning news conference.

Eight million gallons of gas have been delivered via tanker, and millions more would make their way through the system in the next few days, so New Yorkers can again buy fuel without lines, he said, but declined to give precise timetables.

"We will be getting 28 million gallons over the next few days, so we will quickly see an easing in the situation," Cuomo said.

"You don't have to panic, we don't need the anxiety, we don't need the lines," he said, adding that residents nevertheless should conserve gasoline in the meanwhile.

"We did have a shortage in fuel delivery . . . because tankers were held in the harbor," he said. "That situation has been remedied. Gas stations will be getting fuel."

An additional 150,000 gallons of fuel will be available to refill the free fuel trucks throughout the day, the governor said in a statement earlier Saturday.

The free trucks are being deployed by the state National Guard at the direction of Cuomo and provided by the U.S. Department of Defense at the direction of President Barack Obama, Cuomo said.

They will also be at the Queens Armory, 93-05 160th St. in Jamaica, the Bronx Armory, 10 W. 195th St., the Brooklyn Armory, 1579 Bedford Ave., and the Staten Island / Elizabeth Armory, 321 Manor Rd., he said.

"Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the morning news conference said that trucked gasoline from the Department of Defense would total about 12 million gallons this weekend.

In turn, generators provided in part by the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be sent to gas stations in Long Island that have gasoline but no electricity with which to pump it, Schumer said.

About 70 percent of Long Island's gas stations have no power, he said.

The effects of the shortage were still being felt Saturday morning as the sun rose, with blocks-long lines of cars waiting for gas stations to open in Farmingdale, Hicksville, Syosset, Freeport, Bay Shore, Baldwin and beyond.

Rocco Lorusso, 23, and his mother, Eileen Lorusso, 53, both of Brentwood, had been up since 3 a.m. Saturday "gas hunting" from town to town.

They traveled to about 50 gas stations along Veterans Memorial Highway, Sunrise Highway, Route 111 and beyond, they said -- all with the same outcome.

"There are miles of cars . . . the world is going crazy right now," Rocco said. "People are sleeping outside of gas stations on Route 111 on the Brentwood / Islip border."

Down to less than half a tank, the pair finally lucked out at a gas station in Commack.

Lines of more than 100 cars snaked along Jericho Turnpike and Beechwood Lane, where the gas station is located.

The LoRussos waited about two hours in line and had already witnessed a fight over line-cutting that had to be broken up by a Suffolk County police officer, they said.

"It's tiring," said Eileen Lorusso, just as workers changed pricing signs from $3.99 to $4.05 per gallon.

Brian Cabezas, 36, of Commack, sat in his Mustang with friend Guy Errigo, 44, of Copiague for an hour and a half Saturday morning, waiting for gas at the same Commack site.

"I've been looking for gas since Wednesday," Cabezas said, adding that he had carpooled to get around.

His car running on empty, Cabezas had walked two miles to a Smithtown gas station and waited three hours to fill a 5-gallon can. He needed those couple gallons, he said, "just to get me in line here today."

The average price for regular gasoline was $3.98 early Saturday morning on Long Island, according to the AAA, up nearly 2 cents from Friday and 9 cents from a week earlier.

With Matthew Chayes and Lauren R. Harrison

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