With only about 25 percent of New York City's gas stations operating after superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Thursday ordered an odd-even rationing system as a way of reducing long lines at the pump.
"This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance so the lines aren't too oppressive," said Bloomberg in announcing his emergency order at a City Hall briefing.
Acknowledging that fuel supply constraints could last for a few more weeks, Bloomberg said the odd-even system, which begins at 6 a.m. Friday, was the right step to take to alleviate the mounting frustrations and anger of motorists.
Under the city system, vehicles with license plates ending in an odd number, or with plates ending in a letter or other character, can get gas on an odd-numbered days. Even numbered plates, including those ending in "0," will be able to gas up on even-numbered days. Commercial and emergency vehicles, buses, TLC livery and paratransit vehicles, as well as cars with medical doctor plates are exempt.
In other good news for drivers, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel will open at 6 a.m. Friday.
The decision to begin an odd-even system comes after a powerful nor'easter lashed the city Wednesday with freezing temperatures and up to six inches or more of snow in spots, making life miserable for 70,000 Con Ed customers still without power.
The utilities chairman and chief executive, Kevin Burke, said he is "sorry there are so many people suffering because their lights are out."
Burke, speaking at a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster recovery center in White Plains, Westchester County, said, "There are so many people out, it is taking a long time."
City councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), chair of the public safety committee, said the odd-even system was a good idea but questioned why the fuel hasn't flowed fast enough.
On the question of putting power transmission lines underground Bloomberg said the project would be "enormously expensive ... it is not something we are looking at right now."
But Bloomberg also said it would be better to have lines underground and that "it is something certainly worth looking at and I would be happy to work with the governor on it."
Also Thursday, NYPD police officer Artur Kasprzak, 28, was buried. Kasprzak, who was off duty, died while trying to take care of his family on Staten Island as superstorm Sandy plowed across the area on Oct 29.
With John Dyer