UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: After the controversy that erupted when Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the New York City Marathon would go on as scheduled, organizers announced that they have canceled the event.
In New York, the death toll continues to rise, hundreds of thousands remain without power and transportation is still a problem for many as the city deals with the devastation left behind by Superstorm Sandy. On top of that, there’s now also a gas shortage crisis happening. Despite all of that, however, Mayor Michael Bloomberg still wants to proceed with the New York City Marathon as scheduled Sunday. The world’s largest marathon does, after all, generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the city each year.
Needless to say, that decision is not sitting well with some elected officials, first responders, runners and others.
“To host the New York City Marathon in the middle of what is complete devastation and a crisis in parts of this city is just wrong,” said City Councilman Domenic Recchi.
“We’re still pulling bodies out of the water and the mayor is worried about marathon runners and returning to life as normal,” Rep. Michael Grimm, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, said in a statement. “The Verrazano Bridge should be used for getting fuel and food in to Staten Island, not getting runners out. Police resources would be best allocated to prevent looting and in rescue and recovery operations.”
The backlash is also growing on social media sites such as Facebook, according to CNN:
“I understand you’ve all trained and worked hard, but let’s face it: At the end of the race when you ran a ‘sub four-hour’ or a ‘record best’ race, someone in OUR city could have used you for a few hours,” Brooklyn resident Tim McGuire wrote on Facebook. “50,000 runners or whatever? One-fifth of that would do a lot of good putting in that time elsewhere ... and trust me, the accomplishment would mean more in the long run anyway.”
Holding the race so soon after the storm is “a slap in the face to all the people who have lost so much,” wrote Denice Calautti on Facebook.
“Let’s worry about the actual residents first before we worry about the marathon,” wrote Facebook user Jamie Gregory. “The marathon is only going to create extra chaos that is not needed at this time. The city has been through enough. Give them time to get back on their feet.”
But there are those coming to Bloomberg’s defense, arguing that there are positive aspects to running the race.
The New York Times:
Mary Wittenberg, chief executive of New York Road Runners, which puts on the race, defended Bloomberg’s decision and said the race would be used as a platform to lift spirits and raise money. Her organization plans to donate $1 million, or $26.20 for every runner who starts the race, to relief efforts in the city. The Rudin Family and ING, two sponsors of the race, will donate a combined $1.6 million to storm relief. Road Runners is working to donate other supplies to relief efforts.
George Hirsch, the chairman of the board of Road Runners, acknowledged that running the marathon could be viewed as trivial and even a drain in light of the devastation in and around New York. But he expected the race to galvanize the city much as it did after the terrorist attacks in September 2001.
“I understand the controversy completely and respect all the views on this, but any decision that was made by the mayor would have been controversial and to call off the race would have been equally as controversial,” Hirsch said. “By Sunday afternoon, there won’t be any controversy. People will view it as an early step in the city’s recovery.”