County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef announced a restriction on gas sales of 10 gallons of gas per customer starting today at 6 p.m. and noted the restriction is not in place for businesses.
Vanderhoef, speaking at a press conference from the county office building in New City, said the restriction is an attempt to make sure everyone can get gas. He said the restriction is in accordance with New York state executive law, which states that anyone knowingly violating the order can be found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.
“We’re going to use that law and that section of the law to restrict the amount of gasoline that any person can get at the gas pump, and that will be restricted to 10 gallons for filing up. That’s for either canisters or for automobiles,” Vanderhoef said. “The purpose of this is to move these long lines quickly so people can get gas and then move on. It’s also an effort to make sure that everybody on line gets some gas, particularly those, and many of those, in Rockland County who are on generators and who need the gas to keep warm over the course of this weekend.”
Vanderhoef said the restriction is temporary, although he doesn’t have a timetable set for how long it will be in place. He said it will most likely be in place through the weekend at least, but added he didn’t want to predict how long it will last.
“We should see things start to improve as gas stations come back online electrically and gas is more prevalent here,” he said. “We should see improvements pretty quickly.”
He also said that he was told more supplies on their way to the area.
“Last night, many of us elected officials were on a call with the President of the United States and Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo, and at that time the governor announced and FEMA announced that oil reserves and oil supplies were coming into our area and to New York Harbor just this afternoon,” he said.
Vanderhoef added he’s working with Rockland County Sheriff Lou Falco to put the restrictions in place.
“Our objective is not to arrest anybody, that’s not what this is about,” Falco said. “It’s about to maintain order and peace. I’ll be working with all the chiefs of police throughout Rockland County.”
Rockland County Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren joined Vanderhoef and Falco at Friday’s press conference, and said earlier that day they heard from Orange & Rockland that about 52,000 customers are still without service. He said they’ve also heard about people trying to heat their homes using candles and ovens, and asked people to be careful. He also said they are urging people to be careful with generators and stay away from down wires.
Vanderhoef also stressed safety on Friday, as well as patience.
“We understand that we are one of many regional areas that have this problem, and we feel this is the best way to do it, to restrict the amount of gas that any individual can purchase,” Vanderhoef said. “With that, though, the most important part about it is that everybody be safe and calm and be patient. In order to help that effort and to make sure people are in fact following the law, our law enforcement community is going to be helpful throughout the county in trying both to make sure people get the allotted amount and make sure that there’s calm and order at the pumps.”
Vanderhoef also said he knows how frustrating the whole situation has been for residents of Rockland, but asked people to remain calm.
“As the frustration builds, people get angry,” he said. “They get angry at each other and that’s a threat to public safety.”
He added that he’s heard plenty of complaints about Orange & Rockland, and that he and other elected officials have passed complaints on. Vanderhoef said that he feels O&R’s communication on when areas can expect to get their power back has been particularly lacking.
Vanderhoef also said that FEMA officials were in Rockland all day Thursday, looking around at the damage from the storm. FEMA issue a Major Disaster Declaration for Rockland. He said he didn’t have information on when or if an application center would be set up in Rockland, but told residents to call FEMA to make claims of damage.
The FEMA number he was told to have residents call is 1-800-621-3362.