The long islanders, who already face long stays at the DMV for a new law that allows immigrants to obtain driver's licenses illegally, had another reason on Monday to fear the wait: a one-hour computer failure that closed the Department's offices of Motor Vehicles throughout the country.
"It's the worst I've ever seen," said Diane Mallay, 54, of South Hempstead, who had been queuing at the Bethpage DMV office since 11 a.m. to renew a driver's license. Mallay left just after 2:30 p.m. because customers' bottlenecks never decreased.
"It's ridiculous," he said.
His 31-year-old daughter Samantha, who recently moved to Long Island from the west coast, added: "This makes me want to return to California."
The scene at Bethpage's DMV reflected that of other Long Island offices, including Massapequa and Medford. Authorities said they still have to determine the cause of the four-hour problem.
Computers in DMVs across the country shut down at 10 am, but they returned to work at 2 pm, said a spokeswoman for the network of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, which connects DMV agencies in the United States with several verification services.
"AAMVA continues to monitor the network and will conduct a full analysis to determine the root cause of the interruption," spokeswoman Claire Jeffrey said.
Anger and frustration were high among Long Island DMV customers when they were told about the fault. They have already dealt with longer lines than usual since December, when the so-called green light law that allows driver's licenses for immigrants living in the country came into force throughout the state.
About 15 states have granted people in the United States illegally the right to drive, and New Jersey became the last one in December.
Proponents have estimated that some 30,000 immigrants in the country will illegally obtain driver's licenses on Long Island. There are approximately 100,000 immigrants on Long Island who live in the United States without legal permission.
On the DMV Monday Bethpage, people crowded around the closed entrance and shouted at an employee who finally opened the office door to allow some of those waiting inside. When customers began to enter, the employee told them to stop pressing.
It seemed that only some of those who arrived earlier in the day and obtained appointment schedules could enter.
The outside line extended along the front of the building and a little around the corner.
"I haven't seen anything like it," said Debbie Tolkach of Farmingdale. "There is no organization here. It is completely ridiculous."
She was there with her son, 21, who was trying to renew a license before it expires on January 20.
Tolkach said his son had an appointment on Friday at the DMV office in Massapequa, but never entered, so they decided to try Bethpage on Monday.
At 2:30 p.m., they were still waiting.
"We hope they don't close at 4," he said.
State DMV spokeswoman Lisa Koumjian said the department has hired 320 new employees and continues to recruit more staff, including through a job fair held this week in Massapequa.
Chip Bzdewka, 58, of Massapequa, said he went to the Bethpage DMV office last week to renew his license, waited an hour and a half and then gave up.
"I just decided that I had enough," Bzdewka said, adding that he has diabetes, which made it difficult to queue all the time.
He showed up at the Massapequa office around 2:45 p.m. Monday to see if I could enter.
The whole situation, he said, is "really bad."
Ronni Braunski, 36, of Amityville, was more optimistic, or at least gave up a long wait at the DMV in Massapequa, while queuing to get a learner's permit for his 17-year-old son.
"You expect it to be that way at the DMV," said Braunski, who arrived at noon. I was still in line outside the office at 2:45 p.m.
Smithtown resident Mark Viola, 35, said he went to the Port Jefferson office two weeks ago and simply walked away due to the huge lines.
On Monday he decided to try Medford. Viola appeared in the afternoon for what he thought would be a half-hour process to exchange some plates. He waited two hours.
"It's pathetic," he said. "It's still crazy."
With Robert Brodsky