‘Tough for everyone’: Queens residents, gas station owners struggling to keep up with rising prices

gas inflation
Swaran Singh, a cashier at the Mobil station in Long Island City. (Photo by Julia Moro)

Queens residents have been feeling the effects of inflation — rising prices and a loss of purchasing power — all without wages matching the increase in the cost of living.

The price of gas alone has gone up about one dollar this year. Gas station owners are scared, drivers are budgeting and no one knows who to blame. 

Tasos Drivas opened a Mobil gas station in Long Island City nearly 30 years ago, and he told QNS he worries every day about losing his business. 

“What will I do if I lose this [business]?” Drivas said. “I already lost two-thirds of the business I had, and at my age now, it’s not the time to start again. The businesses have been struggling after the government stopped giving out checks. Now, over 90% of people use credit cards at my station. It’s a problem. It’s very tough for everyone.” 

According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of gas is $3.44, over one dollar more than it was a year ago. There are a lot of different factors to blame for this surge in prices. First, AAA says that cold weather increases the demand for heating oil. On top of that, foreign affairs and the concern that Russia will sanction and withhold crude oil in the already tight market puts pressure on prices. 

“This shows how events on the other side of the globe can have a noticeable impact right here in the U.S.,” said Andrew Gross, an AAA spokesperson. “And unfortunately for drivers, they are reminded of this by higher prices at the pump.”   

Drivas said that he sees fewer and fewer people come around to purchase gas at his station. Sometimes, customers only fill up a few dollars’ worth of gas at a time when they can afford to do so. On top of this, he noticed many Uber and Lyft drivers coming through his station, many of whom pay for their gas but complain that their wages do not cover the rising costs.

gas inflation
Alex Samssaris, a Long Island City resident, fills up his tank at the Mobil station in Long Island City. (Photo by Julia Moro)

“Whatever you touch is more expensive,” Drivas said. “The prices go up everywhere. I’m worried; everyone’s worried.”

Anthony, a Lyft driver, said that he applied to work for Uber since he heard they would pay 25 cents on the dollar for gas. “It’s very little,” Anthony said, “but every bit counts.”

“The gas every day is different; I pay more for gas every day,” Anthony said. “Working in the city, you use the most gas. The more you work, the more you pay.”

But it’s not just gas prices that have dramatically increased — food, clothing and other items have also seen prices rise over the past few months.

Anthony said he and his wife struggle to keep up. A trip to the grocery store, which once cost around $100, has doubled.

“My wife told me this morning, our grocery bill went up to $200, just for food,” Anthony said. 

With inflation soaring over the past year and reaching its highest rates in four decades, it is hard to predict an end to the rise in prices. The Labor Department released a statement earlier this month saying consumer prices jumped 7.5% last month compared to the previous year, the steepest increase since February 1982.