Mohammad Islam, a veteran New York City cab driver, pulled up to a stoplight in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday afternoon and yelled to a fellow cab driver.
“Hey, where's the gas?”
The other driver laughed. “No gas, nowhere.”
As New York City residents, many still without electricity and hot water, try to get back to work in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, they will soon be faced with a new problem: a dwindling number of yellow cabs.
With the subway still not operating in lower Manhattan and commuters facing long lines for buses, New Yorkers’ reliance on cabs has become even more significant this week. During the morning and evening rush hours on Thursday, there was a person flagging down a cab on seemingly every street corner. And on Friday, those cabs may no longer be there.
"The city will be almost empty," Islam predicted, mentioning that his tank would only last him until midnight. "No taxis."
“If we can't find gas, we won't work tomorrow,” Simone Nunez, who has been driving yellow taxis for the past five years, said on Thursday, echoing what several cab drivers told BuzzFeed.
Nunez, who lives in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, usually fills up at the end of his shift and hands the cab off to his partner in SoHo, but they’ve had to abandon their regular routine with the subway shutdown leaving him with no way of getting home.
“I'm worried right now," Nunez said. "I'm about to go home and hand off to my partner and there's only half a tank."
At the BP gas station where Nunez usually does the handoff, pumps stood wrapped in yellow “CAUTION” tape. A station attendant named Osas explained that there was no way to pump gas without electricity.
“To the best of my knowledge, they're out of gas all over Manhattan,” Osas said, adding that stations either couldn't pump gas because there was no electricity or because they were running out. “The guys that drive the yellow taxis, they say there is no gas in Brooklyn, no gas in Queens.”
“Everyone's hungry for gas,” Raj Bhuiyan, an attendant at another BP gas station in lower Manhattan, said, explaining that his location is “mostly for cabbies.”
(Even though their stations couldn’t pump gas, Osas and Raj were at work on Thursday to stand guard against potential looters through the night).
Many cab drivers spent much of the day Thursday driving around New York City in search of gas.
“I spent half the day looking for gas,” Joseph, a veteran cab driver who lives in Queens, grumbled as he drove up the FDR Drive, along a stretch that had been completely flooded by the hurricane.
Joseph spent two hours waiting in line at a Hess station in Queens, only to have police officers inform him that the station had run out of gas. He finally filled up his tank at a station in the Bronx, after waiting for nearly three hours.
Malik Awan, another cab driver, was able to fill up his car on Wednesday night at a gas station near Shea Stadium in Queens, but only because he’s a friend of the owner. According to Awan, he was the last car to fill up at that station.
“I don't know if I can work tomorrow,” Awan said. “There's no gas at any gas station...and no supplies coming in.”
“If there's no gas delivering to the stations and no power,” Osas, the BP attendant, pointed out, “it's going to be very difficult to get a taxi.”
As rush hour traffic hit Columbus Circle Thursday evening, Menzi, a cab driver who had waited in line at 2 a.m. for gas that morning, decided that he wouldn’t be coming into work on Friday.
“I only have a few gallons left,” he explained. “Tomorrow, I stay home.”
Watching cabs inch along a closed Central Park, Menzi sighed.
“It's really bad.”