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LIers flock to restaurants to charge cellphones

Verizon linemen prep to replace downed poles on

Verizon linemen prep to replace downed poles on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead. Cleanups began all over the North Fork on Tuesday, the morning after Sandy pounded the metropolitan area. (Oct. 30, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

The owners of Stango's restaurant in Glen Cove realized they had a key selling point for their "old-fashioned southern Italian food" eatery the day after Sandy hit and left much of Long Island in the dark.

When the restaurant reopened Tuesday, a message on its Facebook page read: "Bring your cellphones, we'll charge them for you while you eat. Hot food, cold beer, rocks for your scotch."

Wednesday they followed with: "We'll be serving at 4:30, good night for lasagna and some 'lectricity."

For many commercial establishments serving Long Islanders who were power-hungry amid widespread outages, the new item on the menu was, well, juice.

"As soon as I found I had power, I opened," said Stango's co-owner John Cocchiola, 50, of Glen Cove. He said he had "a couple of surge protectors" on hand to meet the demand.

At cafes, malls and other businesses, customers have been charging their smartphones, tablet computers and laptops, and connecting to the Internet. They need to find out what is going on, as well as let others know what is going on.

"It's crucial to be able to do this," said Monica Zenyuh, an 11-year Northport resident who was at Copenhagen Bakery in that village with her husband, Christopher, and children, Kaitlin, 7, and Connor, 5.

Both parents were charging their phones and using spotty wireless connections to check email, verify school closures, get news updates and, of course, update Facebook statuses.

"I have a lot of relatives out in Switzerland," said Zenyuh, a teacher. "I had to tell them we are OK because they heard about Long Island in the news and some had assumed we all just washed out to sea."

Copenhagen Bakery owner Flemming Hansen said the availability of electricity brought many "new faces" ordering coffee, Danishes, soup -- and staying awhile, something that he said is good for business and a service for the community.

"We can't even brew coffee fast enough," said Hansen, 48. "People are sitting inside with their laptops and every outlet has an electronic device switched in."

The Town of Babylon opened up two cellphone-charging stations for residents after realizing that up to 70 percent of the town was without power. Dozens of people were using them at town offices in Lindenhurst and North Babylon, said Supervisor Rich Schaffer.

"It's the lifeline to the outside world," Schaffer said. "It's almost turned into a little community networking place. People are sitting and chatting with neighbors."

The same was happening at other places where strangers sat together, waiting. In Manhasset, Susan Kleinman and Susan Simmons met at the Buttercooky Bakery after being turned away from a shelter where officials worried about conserving fuel powering a generator. They were chitchatting and charging away.

"We're probably a generation apart, and we've had a very enjoyable afternoon," Kleinman said. "We know all about each other's lives."

The search for electricity also showed Long Islanders' resourcefulness in the face of obstacles left by the hybrid storm.

Several customers at the Chiefs Deli in Massapequa Park were charging cellphones, iPads, laptops and even nebulizers, said co-owner Jimmy Soregaroli.

One of them, Steve Walk, 51, spent more than three hours at a small table, a cup of coffee off to the side as he set up temporary shop. Walk, a direct-mail advertiser, was charging his MacBook and using the online connection.

"I haven't worked since Monday," Walk said. "I have to catch up."


Some tips for making the cellphone battery last longer:

- Turn off the WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS settings unless you know you are currently connected. Searching for networks drains the battery.

- Turn off automatic updates sent to your phone from Facebook, Twitter and other applications to conserve power.

- Reduce the brightness of the screen.

- Ringtone notifications use less battery than vibrate functions.

- If you aren't expecting incoming communications, set your phone to "airplane mode" when you aren't using it.

-- Many cellphones can be charged by plugging into the USB drive on your computer or to a car engine by using a car charger.


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