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Mayor defends move to hold marathon, tempers boil

Friday - 11/2/2012, 7:00pm  ET

Cars wait for gas in a line that stretches about one and a half miles in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. In parts of New York and New Jersey, drivers face another day of lining up for hours at gas stations struggling to stay supplied. Superstorm Sandy damaged ports that accept fuel tankers and flooded underground equipment that sends fuel through pipelines. Without power, fuel terminals can't pump gasoline onto tanker trucks, and gas stations can't pump fuel into customers' cars. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

EILEEN AJ CONNELLY
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Manhattan skyline was expected to be mostly lit for the first time in five days Friday night, a sign of progress undercut by long gas lines and anger over plans to go ahead with the New York City Marathon while thousands of residents still had no power or, for some, no place to live.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his decision to hold the 26-2 mile race as scheduled on Sunday, although many New Yorkers complained it would be insensitive and divert city resources at a time when many are suffering.

"You have to keep going and doing things. ... You can grieve and you can cry and you can laugh and that's what human beings are good at," Bloomberg said at a news conference. "New York has to show that we are here and we are going to recover," and can help businesses and people at the same time.

Bloomberg said the marathon would "give people something to cheer about in what has been a very dismal week for a lot of people."

The mayor said Con Edison hoped to resolve most Manhattan outages by midnight Friday. The news is not as good for the city's outer boroughs, where customers may not have electricity until mid-November.

Four days after Sandy slammed the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, the U.S. death toll climbed past 90 in 10 states, and included two young brothers who were torn from their mother's grasp by rushing floodwaters in Staten Island during the storm. Their bodies were found in a marshy area on Thursday.

With fuel deliveries in the East disrupted by storm damage and many gas stations lacking electricity to run their pumps, gasoline became a precious commodity, especially for those who depend on their cars for their livelihoods.

Some drivers complained of waiting three and four hours in line, only to see the pumps run dry when it was almost their turn. Others ran out of gas before they reached the front of the line.

Police officers were assigned to gas stations to maintain order. In Queens, a man was charged Thursday with flashing a gun at another motorist who complained he was cutting in line.

At a Hess station early Friday in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, the line snaked at least 10 blocks through narrow, busy streets. That caused confusion among other drivers, some of whom accidentally found themselves in the gas line. People got out of their cars to yell at them.

In addition, at least 60 people were lined up to fill red gas cans for their generators.

Vince Levine got in line in his van at 5 a.m.; by 8 a.m., he was still two dozen cars from the front. "I had a half-tank when I started. I've got a quarter-tank now," he said.

"There's been a little screaming, a little yelling. And I saw one guy banging on the hood of a car. But mostly it's been OK," he said.

Cabdriver Harum Prince joined a line for gas in Manhattan that stretched 17 blocks down 10th Avenue, with about half the cars yellow cabs, a crucial means of getting around in a city with a still-crippled mass transit system.

"I don't blame anybody," he said. "God, he knows why he brought this storm."

More 3.8 million homes and business in the East were still without power, down from a peak of 8.5 million. Still, across the New York metropolitan area, there were signs that life was beginning to return to something approaching normal.

More subway and rail lines started operating again Friday, and the Holland Tunnel into New York was open to buses.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said Atlantic City's 12 casinos could reopen immediately after a nearly five-day shutdown for Superstorm Sandy. Sandy slammed into the shoreline Monday night just a few miles from Atlantic City, which was flooded and lost a section of its word-famous boardwalk but fared much better than other parts of New Jersey's coast.

The prospect of better times ahead did little to mollify residents who spent another day and night in the dark.

"It's too much. You're in your house. You're freezing," said Geraldine Giordano, 82, a lifelong resident of the West Village. Near her home, city employees had set up a sink where residents could get fresh water, if they needed it.

There were few takers. "Nobody wants to drink that water," Giordano said.

There was increasing worry about the elderly. Community groups have been going door-to-door on the upper floors of darkened Manhattan apartment buildings, and city workers and volunteers in hard-hit Newark, N.J., delivered meals to seniors and others stuck in their buildings.

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