LOWER EAST SIDE — As the last remaining gas station in Lower Manhattan prepares to close within the coming weeks to make way for office and retail development, residents and local community organizations fear the loss could jeopardize resiliency efforts in the event of a disaster similar to Superstorm Sandy.
The BP station at 300 Lafayette St. near East Houston Street will close on April 14, as reported by EV Grieve, and neighbors said they are losing a valuable resource that kept them afloat during the 2012 hurricane, allowing residents to fill their cars and power back-up generators for electricity.
Gasoline was already difficult to come by at the time, said a leader in resiliency efforts, and the worsening dearth of places to fill up could seriously strain the community if Lower Manhattan gets hit again.
“We learned from that gas shortage that occurred in Superstorm Sandy how important this resource is to a community, and now we find ourselves with no gas stations anywhere near,” said Damaris Reyes, executive director of Good Old Lower East Side and chair of emergency preparedness group LES Ready.
The Lafayette station — where Reyes recalls desperate drivers lined up in Sandy’s aftermath — was the neighborhood’s last remaining gas station. Two in the East Village — one on Second Street near Avenue C and another on Second Avenue near First Street — have shuttered since the hurricane and will be replaced by residential and commercial developments.
Taxi drivers and car owners have already felt the sting of the filling station famine, the Observer reported, but the shortage could have ramifications for resiliency that have gone largely unconsidered as developers grab up the land for more profitable enterprises, said Reyes.
“This does not do well for thinking about a balanced community with all of the resources that are necessary to help it be functional and resilient in a time of need,” she said. “It’s not just the residents who are at risk of displacement — it’s our resources.”
With the April closure, the last station below 14th Street will be a Mobil station on Eighth Avenue in the West Village. East Siders can still make the trek to a BP at 23rd Street off the FDR, though Reyes said the prices are sky-high and would still be a major inconvenience during a disaster.
Residents would most likely have to leave the city to power their vehicles or generators, said a concerned neighbor and leader of a local tenant advocacy group — significantly crippling community members’ ability to mobilize or supply electricity for their homes, either in preparation for a storm or in an effort to recover afterwards.
“Having to cross a bridge or go through a tunnel to get gas is not the best way to prepare for an emergency,” said Trever Holland, president of the Two Bridges Tower Tenant Association. “If there are no gas stations to go to, it becomes extremely problematic as to how you’re going to get gas for generators.”