New York Marathon Diverts Scarce Resources After Sandy
Mayor Bloomberg has decided to hold the New York Marathon Sunday even though millions are still without power and the city infrastructure is unable to cope with normal activity.
NYT (“Marathon Presses On as Backlash Builds“):
With the death count from Hurricane Sandy growing, hundreds of thousands still without power, and air, rail and ferry service struggling to resume, some runners and elected officials have called for Sunday’s marathon to be canceled or postponed. Police, fire and other essential public services, they said, should be focused on helping those most in need.
Nevertheless, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, aware that the marathon generates hundreds of millions of dollars for the city, repeated Thursday that the race would go on. He did not expect the Police Department to be overly burdened because the race is on a Sunday, when street traffic is limited. Many parts of the city, including Lower Manhattan, are expected to have their power back, freeing other workers.
“The city is a city where we have to go on,” Bloomberg said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
With air and rail service only now starting to resume, many runners have yet to reach the city. Once they do, other accommodations will be needed. For now, the Staten Island Ferry transportation option to the start line is in doubt, and runners who hoped to get to the start line by ferry may need to take a bus instead. Typically, about half of the runners in the marathon take that route to get to the start line at the toll plaza to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island.
Runners will have until Saturday, instead of Wednesday, to withdraw from the race. They will be guaranteed a spot in next year’s race, but will not have this year’s entry fee refunded.
The marathon has escalated into political fodder, with elected officials issuing statements about the appropriateness of staging the race.
The likely Democratic candidates for mayor of New York offered their opinions. William C. Thompson said the race should be canceled because “our neighbors are hurting and our city needs to make them its priority.” John Liu, the comptroller, told Reuters that it should go on because “it’s a big economic generator.” Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, also supported the decision to hold the race, saying, “The event is a city institution that delivers tremendous economic activity.”
New York Daily News (“Staten Island residents plead for help from Mayor Bloomberg after storm“):
Outer-borough residents pleaded for help Thursday, claiming their Sandy-ravaged neighborhoods are the forgotten victims of the killer hurricane — and nowhere was the anger more palpable at the storm’s Ground Zero: Staten Island.
Even as the city and feds rushed food, water and generators to the borough, residents and their elected officials fumed that Staten Island was being prepped as the starting line for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, even as the rest of the island is left to deal with the aftershocks of the mega-storm.
“The notion of diverting even one police officer, one first responder, one asset away from this carnage is beyond irrational,” Councilman James Oddo told the Daily News. Earlier, Oddo called the idea of hosting the marathon as “idiotic” on his Facebook page.
Meanwhile, FEMA and the city were trucking badly needed food, water and hundreds of generators — donated by the Caterpillar Corp. — to the hardest hit parts of the island. Free food distribution centers were hastily prepared at two drop off points: Mill Road and New Dorp Lane, and at an empty lot at Yetman Ave. and Hylan Blvd. Food will be handed out again Friday.
“We have the worst tragedy that’s ever happened in Staten Island, and I’d say New York City, since 9/11,” said Borough President James Molinaro. “We need help … We need food, we need clothing, we need everything you can possibly think of.”
New York Post (“Marathon is power mad!“):
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers huddle in the dark each night after the most devastating storm in city history — while two massive generators chug away in Central Park and a third sits idle waiting to power a media center during Sunday’s NYC Marathon.
Those generators could power 400 homes on Staten Island or the Rockaways or any storm-wracked neighborhood in the city certain to be suffering the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy on Sunday morning.
Shouldn’t they come first? Shouldn’t the race just be canceled?
But Mayor Mike’s trademark Manhattan myopia is back: While ravaged outer-borough New Yorkers shiver in the dark, he declares the race will go on.
(Can anyone say “Christmas Blizzard?”)
As The Post reports today, the industrial-strength generators have been set up to power a marathon tent.
Meanwhile, NYPD vehicles — and cops themselves — were diverted yesterday to race duty. More than a dozen flatbed trucks used to shuttle people and supplies to and from devastated areas were dispatched to help put up . . . spectator barriers.
Meanwhile, the notion that so much as a flashlight battery would be devoted to a sporting event is outrageous.
The mayor’s rationale is not without merit: aside from being a huge tradition, the Marathon is a source of significant revenue and civic pride. And, presumably, things will in fact be better on Sunday than they are today. Still, even pre-race preparations are a massive diversion of resources for a city that can ill afford it.
Yesterday, Bloomberg ordered that no passenger car be allowed into the city carrying fewer than three people. There are checkpoints and people violating the order are being turned away, usually after having been on the road for hours trying to get in to the city to make a living. While I’m not sure where exactly Bloomberg derives the authority to impose such rules, it nonetheless strikes me as a reasonable measure under such extreme circumstances.
But at a time when it takes heroic measures for people in the outer boroughs to get into the city to work, why would you allow tens of thousands of outsiders to come in to run a race? At a time when huge numbers of locals are displaced from their homes and forced to live in hotels, why would you turn them away to accommodate out-of-towners engaging in recreation?
UPDATE: Apparently, at least some hoteliers have decided to not honor the reservations of marathoners so as not to displace Sandy refugees. Fine. But what kind of moron do you have to be to make that call and yet not have the courtesy to contact those who you’ve promised rooms to so that they can make other plans?
UPDATE (Doug Matacconis): Mayor Bloomberg announced late Friday afternoon that the Marathon has been canceled.
via Mike Lyons