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The Last East Village Pumps

East Village gas - Cary Abrams
Cary Abrams

One of the blessings New York City residents enjoy is living in one of the few places in America where it is possible to exist without owning an automobile. In fact, three out of four Manhattanites do not own a car. They miss out on the city’s fabled alternate side of the street parking rituals. They are unable to experience the jolting sensation of driving over the current epic crop of potholes making the streets an urban minefield, and fail to become apoplectic, sitting in lengthy traffic jams or searching for one of those few rapidly disappearing relics, a gas station.

A byproduct of Lower East Side gentrification has been the demolition of the many of the gas stations that once lined the heavily traveled Bowery and Houston Streets. The Bowery Hotel towers over the site of a two story building formerly housing a gas station and taxi garage that some claim is still haunted by the spirit of a German shepherd who roamed there protecting unoccupied taxis. B Bar, the restaurant with an outside dining terrace at East Fourth Street and the Bowery, capitalizes on its former life as a Gulf gas station. The gleaming metal clad Adidas Store on Houston Street and Broadway occupies the narrow sliver of land where the Whale of a Wash car-wash and gas station once had cabbies lined up to ride the conveyer belt through the gyrating stiff bristle brushes, ermerging for a final polishing by some guy with a towel.

After hearing the daily news reports of rising gas prices, nearing the dreaded $4 per gallon, I visited the three remaining East Village gas stations to do some comparison shopping. I found my sticker to be in marked contrast to the complacency of many of the drivers I spoke with. One was unfazed by his $62.31 tab of $4.23 per gallon high test gasoline that he pumped into his Lincoln SUV at the Mobil station on Avenue C and Houston. He related that his usual tab had been in the $50 a fill up range as he shrugged, “I’ve got to drive.”

The prices at the Mobil station were higher than at the other two East Village stations. Both the BP station across from the Puck Building at Houston and Lafayette and the Gulf station at Second Avenue and First had identical prices of $3.79 per gallon for low test and $4.09 per gallon for high test gasoline (Mobil charged $3.93 for low test). These prices are for self serve customers paying cash. Credit card prices are approximately fifteen cents a gallon higher, and full service high test nears the shocking $5 a gallon mark, selling for $4.95 at the BP station. A driver from New Jersey who I spoke to summed it up as we discussed the lower Jersey gas prices: “If you’re going to run out of gas, you’ve got no choice.”

Of course, these were last week’s prices. Gas might be even more expensive today.