By Ed Zwirn
Published in the New York Post on May 23, 2015. Click here to view the published version.
As the summer driving season begins, motorists looking to gas up anywhere in the city are finding they have fewer places to buy fuel.
The New York metro area lost just over 10 percent of its gas stations during the decade ended in 2013, the most recent year for which detailed US Census data is available.
This trend was pronounced in the outer boroughs, where the decline was 19 percent, and even more so in Manhattan, with 40 percent fewer pumps.
This pump shortage may account for the disparity in pricing between Long Island and the city.
The average price for regular gas in the five boroughs is $2.97, while on Long Island it is $2.92, according to Gasbuddy.com.
The biggest reason for the dearth of gas stations in the city is its ongoing real estate boom, with housing developers often snatching up the valuable land stations occupy.
“Areas that are taking the hit are the populated areas of New York City,” says Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the NY State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops.
City gas-station owners also face myriad business challenges, including price competition from New Jersey, declining gas sales margins (which have gone from 15 cents a gallon 10 years ago to the present 10 cents) and environmental regulations that make it difficult to maintain existing gas stations, let alone create new ones.
Pressured by margins, just over half the gas stations in the Big Apple included convenience stores as of 2013, up from 30 percent in 2003.
At the same time, demand for gasoline appears to be leveling off. Consumption in the US came to 137 billion gallons in 2014, off about 4 percent from its 2007 pre-recession peak, and is expected to rise 1.4 percent this year — boosted by low prices — before falling off again next year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
In the meantime, business is booming for the survivors. Turgay Kadlioglu, who owns a Shell station at 96th Street and First Avenue, says he is currently pumping about 350,000 gallons a month, up from 300,000 when he bought the station in 1997, an increase he attributes exclusively to the decline in prices. “At the moment, there’s no sign of it letting up,“ he says.