Gas station attendants at small, neighborhood stations all over the borough are feeling a bit of relief.
Standing outside a Mobil station in Riverdale on Thursday, August 5, Senator Pedro Espada announced his support of a bill that would prohibit large oil companies like Shell and Exxon Mobil from selling small gas stations to large distributors that might raise their rent and sell them gasoline at unfair rates.
“Big oil wishes to continue a pattern of monopolistic and predatory behavior that puts small stations out of business,” Espada said. “This bill helps to retain the American dream.”
Espada continued that the “little guys” need people in fovernment to support them, and in front of cameras, he urged Governor David Paterson to sign the bill immediately, which Espada’s staff said would have already made it to Paterson’s desk by the time of the press conference.
“Governor Paterson, we need you to save small business and sign this bill today,” Espada said. “Already, deals are being made and small local businesses are losing out.”
Espada mentioned that the Bronx has the highest unemployment rate in the state, and called it the “neediest” area for “mom-and-pop businesses” to continue thriving.
A number of gas station attendants and owners from all over the city stood by Espada’s side and spoke briefly. Many mentioned how small gas stations are able to be involved in the community, offer good rates, and stay open late, and that if they are closed, the neighborhoods that rely on them would suffer.
Steve Cohen, a Mobil dealer from Long Island, told the crowd, “We keep the price of gasoline at a reasonable rate. If big oil closes these properties, we all know what’s going to happen. The price of gas will go up.”
One of the Bronx’s own, Mike Innella, also spoke at the press conference. Innella has a Sunoco station on City Island — the only gas station on the island. “I’ve been a dealer 36 years,” he said. “We service customers in the rain, sleet, or snow. When your baby needs milk in the middle of the night, we are there.”
Innella admitted after the conference that, indeed, he and other gas attendants he knows have been concerned over big oil companies buying their stations for quite some time, and that was what motivated him to come out to Riverdale and stand behind this bill.
“We’re so scared we’re shaking in our boots,” he said. “There’s absolutely no reason the governor should not sign this.”