May 21, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

How the War in Ukraine Hurt a Lukoil Gas Station Owner on Long Island

6 min read

Good morning. It’s Wednesday. We’ll look at gasoline stations in the New York area that are under pressure because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We’ll also find out about a tree in Miami Beach with a guardian in SoHo.

Ganesh Lall is a service station owner in Lynbrook, N.Y., who did not expect the vitriol he says has come his way since Russia attacked Ukraine.

His station is a Lukoil franchise. There is a big Lukoil sign on the corner and smaller Lukoil signs at the pumps. Lukoil is Russia’s second-largest oil company.

Lall said he has nothing to do with Russia. “I’m Guyanese,” he said, calling the conflict “heartbreaking” and castigating President Vladimir V. Putin for sending Russia forces into Ukraine. “Whatever he’s doing is wrong,” Lall said. “The world knows it. Everybody knows it.” He also said the gas he sells does not come from Russia.

But with officials and customers showing support for Ukraine by shunning brands they see as Russian, Lall is feeling the pressure. He said that business had dropped 50 percent since the war began and that he and his employees have been taunted. “I’ve got a guy pumping gas,” he said. “The other night a guy wanted to hit him.”

The crisis that has swept up Lall continued on Tuesday as President Biden banned imports of Russian oil and natural gas into the United States — about 10 percent of U.S. energy resources. The president’s escalation of economic penalties against Russia could have consequences for Lall: Gas prices could climb again. The average price of one gallon of regular in New York City was $4.39 on Tuesday, according to AAA — 22 cents more than the record-high national average of $4.17 and 76 cents more than the price a month ago.

When the Russian invasion began, the hashtag #BoycottLukoil gained popularity. But gasoline dealers’ trade associations said that boycotting Lukoil would hurt station owners like Lall the most. Sal Risalvato — the executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, Automotive Association — said most Lukoil stations were managed or operated not by Lukoil but by franchisees.

“These small businesses invest significant amounts of money, time and sweat to keep these businesses open and their families fed,” he said.

And they are lashed to the Lukoil name by long-term contracts, usually for 10 years, said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores. Risalvato said that many Lukoil franchisees “never even chose to be associated with Lukoil — they were Getty or Mobil stations” that Lukoil acquired in the early 2000s. Lukoil’s website says it sold the former Getty network in 2011.

Lukoil now manages a distribution network in 11 East Coast states and Washington, D.C., and supplies heating oil and natural gas in New York, the website says. Putin himself attended the opening of a Lukoil station in New York City in 2003.

Lukoil PJSC, the Moscow-based energy company, distanced itself from Putin last week, telling shareholders it favored “the immediate cessation of the armed conflict” in Ukraine. Calls and emails to its Lukoil North America subsidiary went unanswered on Tuesday.

He has been identified only as Juror 50 in the trial that convicted Ghislaine Maxwell of sex trafficking in December.

On Tuesday, he went to court for an unusual hearing. He testified that he had made an “honest mistake” when he failed to disclose that he had been sexually abused as a child.

During a tense hearing in a packed courtroom, he told Judge Alison Nathan that he had read through a pretrial screening questionnaire quickly. The questionnaire asked potential jurors if they had ever been sexually abused. He said he mistakenly checked the “no” box.

“This was one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life,” he said. If he could “go back and change everything” and take the time “to read this appropriately, I would, in a heartbeat,” he said.

Judge Nathan scheduled the hearing after Maxwell’s lawyers asked her to throw out the verdict and order a new trial because of interviews Juror 50 gave after the verdict was handed down. He said in one interview, with, that the jury room “went silent” as he told his story and that he had helped other jurors understand things from a victim’s perspective. The judge did not say when she would rule on the request for a new trial.


Prepare for snow in the early morning, then rain, with temps reaching the high 30s. At night, expect a slight chance of rain and snow with temps in the same range.

alternate-side parking

In effect until March 17 (Purim).

Miami Beach has a mayor, six commissioners, a city manager, a city clerk and hundreds of municipal employees. It also has a banyan tree with a guardian who lives 1,100 miles away in Manhattan, the artist Michele Oka Doner.

Oka Doner, who grew up in Miami Beach, was designated guardian of the tree by Mayor Dan Gelber. He said by email that “her perspectives inform us and remind us to cherish our extraordinary natural gifts” — such as the banyan, which is believed to be not quite 100 years old. Gelber’s proclamation naming her the tree’s guardian described it as the largest banyan in southeast Florida.

And yes, she can serve as the tree’s guardian — an honorary, nonpaying designation — while living in Manhattan. She was looking in on the tree long before she had a title: She said she caught the first plane she could after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and went to check on it. “It lost a huge limb,” she said, “but it survived.”

The tree was close to Oka Doner’s childhood home. “I think that tree gave me a sense of peace and quiet,” she said. “The world dropped away. I could touch the roots. I could listen to the birds. It was away from everything. It was embracing and sheltering. I was a bird in my own nest.”

“In a transient place,” she said, “it was my rootedness.”

As an artist, Oka Doner is known for “A Walk on the Beach,” a mile-and-a-quarter-long installation on the floor of the Miami International Airport. In New York, she installed “Radiant Site” in the 34th Street subway station at Herald Square — 11,000 gold glazed tiles — in the 1990s after winning a competition sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Oka Doner said she had met with officials from the Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Department, including a tree specialist. “They’re not going to rake,” she said. “They’re not going to trim. The tree is going to live out its natural life cycle, which is the way I phrased it. It’s a sign of respect.”


Dear Diary:

I got dressed up one Sunday and took the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan for a date. It was obvious after the first round of drinks that we weren’t well matched and we parted amicably.

Ravenous and not willing to waste a good outfit and the train fare, I walked across the street to Gotham Bar & Grill to try the new menu while reading my book.

I had just sat down at the empty bar and opened my book when the bartender said that on Sundays, they only served a prix fixe menu. The “prix” had been fixed well beyond my budget, but I was already sitting so I settled for sauvignon blanc for dinner.