Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t so easy, at least as far as the sky-high price of gasoline is concerned, but the typical Queens resident seems to be taking a spike in stride.
“Per ounce, gasoline is one of the cheapest liquids available,” said Alex Mermelstein, 32, of Briarwood. “We pay more for milk than we do for gas. Heck, some brands of bottled water are more expensive than gas. So just make peace with it and find the cheapest gas station in your area.”
The national average price of gas remains at its highest for this date since 2008, according to the AAA NewsRoom website.
The website newyorkgasprices.com reports that the average price for regular gasoline in New York State on July 8 was $3.909 per gallon. This compares to Connecticut’s nationwide high of $3.958 and South Carolina’s low of $3.346.
The average price for gasoline in New York City rose above the $4 mark about a week ago, reaching $4.030, compared to $3.802 last year.
Not surprisingly, most strenuously affected are those who rely on gasoline for their livelihoods.
Stationed outside the subway station at Continental Avenue in Forest Hills, 16-year veteran taxi cab driver Satnam Singh said he has been spending in the neighborhood of $100 a month more for gasoline, a direct drain out of his pocket.
“I feel bad,” he said. “There is too much expense. Business is very slow. A lot of people don’t have jobs. If you don’t have money, you stay home.”
Fellow cabbie Inder Singh, who covers all five boroughs in his green T&LC cab, hasn’t been feeling the pinch quite as much.
“I have a hybrid car,” he said, “so it doesn’t use too much gas.”
Still, he was all too well aware that “prices are up. I’m spending more money. We have to manage everything.”
One gas station owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, places the blame on the distributors who serve as middlemen between the gasoline companies and the stations.
Already the owner of one major brand station, he recently purchased a second one and is already having regrets.
He suggested that some distributors charge some stations as much as 10 cents more per gallon than other stations.
“The distributor plays a lot of games. I was not aware of this,” he said. “They don’t care about the dealers. They want us to suffer the hit. They want us to lower our prices at no benefit to us. But it benefits them because with lower prices we sell more.”
This past Monday, he lowered his price to $4.19 per gallon, down 6 cents from the $4.25 he had been charging over the Fourth of July weekend.
“We pumped a lot more gallons,” he said.
“Everyone needs gas,” he said, “even if it goes up to $5 a gallon. What can you do?”
But even as prices rise, he explained, “the gas doesn’t pay the rent here.”
He must, therefore, depend upon the repair shop that is attached to the station to help cover his costs.
Doing a hefty business at a Mobil station and repair shop in Rego Park is Gunther Duy, co-owner of Gunral Service Center, located at the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and 64th Road.
Now in its 38th year, the business has become something of a landmark in the area. On one recent morning, an uninterrupted stream of customers passed through, nearly everyone greeting Duy by his first name, hoping to get a new set of tires or a suspicious squeak under the hood looked into.
The action at the pumps was less hectic but considered steady.
One customer, a Bayside resident who preferred to be referred to simply as Kathe L., came in for a new battery. She was philosophical.
“The price of everything is going up,” she said. “What are your other options? I try to be economical with gas. I don’t waste it. I try to do my errands in the same area. I look for cheap gas prices and take advantage of cheap gas prices in New Jersey when I’m there.” She said she puts aside $30 a week for gas and “I try to live within that budget.”
Duy, who owns the station with his partner, Ralph Barone, admitted that prices at the pump definitely affect business.
“It depends on how big the jump is,” he said. “People can use their cars less.”
He has also noticed that far fewer customers pay in cash these days.
“They don’t have that amount of cash on them,” he said. He estimated that it takes $50 to fill up the average car and over $100 for most trucks.
He has noticed that people are using plastic much more frequently nowadays. “Once they use their credit card once, they get in the habit,” he said.
While many stations charge more for gas bought on credit, Duy charges the same for cash and credit. He said each station owner sets his own prices.
AAA reports that the national average price has fallen for the past 10 straight days. Still, regular unleaded gas remains 18 cents more than one year ago.