Most symbolically, the lights started coming on in pockets of Lower Manhattan, home to vital financial institutions and dense, lively neighborhoods. Crowds of residents erupted in cheers as power began coming back to about 100,000 customers in the East Village and Chelsea neighborhoods. Fixes were expected to continue throughout the southern tip of Manhattan this weekend.
The Holland Tunnel, a critical conduit under the Hudson River connecting Manhattan with the west, also opened to buses Friday. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reopened the 12 casinos in Atlantic City, the beachfront landmark that was just a few miles away from where the center of the storm struck land.
Still, nearly 4 million homes and business remained without power. Some far-flung areas, even some of New York’s immediate suburbs, could face another week of darkness and cold.
Napolitano, visiting the devastated New York borough of Staten Island, said the area directly affected by the storm was roughly the size of Europe, and called the electricity crisis the “fundamental issue” facing the region.
Gasoline tankers began trickling into the New York Harbor on Friday, but in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut searching for gas became a way of life. Residents were glued to radio stations carrying live updates of gas station deliveries. A parlor game of sorts erupted — like Russian roulette for cars — as drivers running on fumes were forced to choose which station’s line to join.
“This has been a madhouse,” said Walt Must, 56, a lawyer from Toms River, N.J., as he waited for gas near the Garden State Parkway.
Ahead of him, 32-year-old Rob Vargas was waiting in his red Montero — using Facebook to tell friends the station had gas. Vargas said he had weathered severe hurricanes in his native Nicaragua, and thought he was prepared for Sandy. Now, he said, there are 15 family members sleeping in his two-bedroom apartment in Lakewood, N.J.