New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg diametrically retreated today when he decided to cancel the city’s 40 year running marathon scheduled for Sunday. The mayor had been slammed with a chorus of criticism over his refusal to vacate preparations to hold the event as the NYC Marathon is officially canceled.
The mayor’s action came amid an outcry that the event would take away from efforts to help thousands of New Yorkers who are without power or homeless because of superstorm Sandy.
“While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division,” the mayor said in a statement. “The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination.
We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it.”
He added, “We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event – even one as meaningful as this – to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.”
Voices against holding the marathon had been gaining in both volume and prestige as the city’s Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilman James Oddo, and City Comptroller John Liu all striking different tones in their opposition against the run.
Speaker Quinn, issued a statement saying, “The decision to move forward with the marathon is not a decision I would have made. That said, I think we need to look forward and continue to focus on the task at hand — helping those without electricity, food and water and rebuilding our city.” In other words, DON’T let this debate over the Marathon distraction become a distraction!
One of her challengers for the crown went a lot further. Here’s de Blasio: “The pain and suffering still unfolding in our neighborhoods is too deep for words. I walked more streets with Councilman Oddo in Staten Island today, and listened to people who still remain without power, food and water – so near the race’s starting point. It’s convinced me the needs are simply too great to divert any resources from the recovery. Lodgings reserved for marathoners must be re-allocated to utility workers. We need to postpone the Marathon and keep our focus where it belongs: on public safety and vital relief operations.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also piled on earlier, saying, “The prudent course of action here — postpone the marathon, come back a different day.” Staten Island Council member James Oddo put things a little differently, declaring, “If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream. We have people with no homes and no hope right now.”
City Comptroller and would-be mayor John Liu, who was for the marathon before he was against it: Earlier this week, I stated support for keeping the New York City Marathon, which is a huge economic generator for the City, on schedule assuming that the City’s infrastructure would be able to support the race and New Yorkers’ safety can be ensured. Unfortunately, it has become apparent over the last couple of days that there are still large parts of the City where recovery efforts are falling short, where fellow New Yorkers remain hungry and cold, and where there is now more and more looting.
As I have traveled throughout the boroughs since Sandy struck, it has become clear that the Marathon would compromise the City’s ability to protect and provide for the residents most affected by the hurricane. Recovery efforts must come before the Marathon and it’s time to re-evaluate whether the resources needed for the Marathon can really be spared on Sunday.
Bloomberg had been consulting with the New York Road Runners, the organization behind the annual race this evening.
Previously, the marathon started at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, one of the hardest hit communities in New York City. More than 80,000 residents were still without power and many remained homeless. At least 19 people also died on Staten Island because of Sandy.
“[New York] has to show that we are here and we are going to recover,” he said during a news conference earlier this week, “[and] give people something to cheer about in what’s been a very dismal week for a lot of people.”
Today, however, Tweets blasting the decision to proceed with the marathon had increased from about 10,000 Tweets to more than 50,000.
“Worst storm ever. No electricity. No gas. No subways. Hey, let’s host a marathon!!!!” Tweeted Justin Stangel.
“Bodies still being found on Staten Island, people eating from dumpsters in Brooklyn, but the Marathon gets generators & food trucks? WTF?” Tweeted CatsPolitics.
Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro called holding the marathon this weekend “crazy.”
Thousands of runners have joined online appeals to boycott the event or volunteer instead on Sunday to help stricken families.
The scrappy New York Post took the mayor to task with its front page headlined “Abuse of Power.” It pictured large generators supplying power to the marathon’s administrative tent in Central Park.
At a Friday briefing, Bloomberg tried to counter the mounting criticism by saying the expanded restoration of mass transit and projected return of electrical power to most of Manhattan by Friday night would free up many police officers and other city personnel.
The mayor also noted that Rudy Giuliani, his predecessor who had staged the annual race only weeks after the 9/11 attacks, supported his decision as a way to demonstrate solidarity among New Yorkers.
He also said the race would pump much-needed money into the city’s economy, which was brought to its knees by the storm.
Mary Wittenberg, president of the New York Road Runners that operates the event, also tried to fend off criticism by saying this year’s event will involve more private contractors than in past years to ease the strain on city services.
The marathon, which has run every year since 1970, brings an estimated $340 million into the city, and race organizers say some of it will be used for recovery efforts.
New York Road Runners will donate $1 million to the recovery fund and said more than $1.5 million in pledges already had been secured from sponsors.
Bloomberg’s critics, however, were quite blunt and the rising tide against holding the event ultimately became too much for him to remain a positive supporter and event enabler. Thus, his hand was forced to cancel the marathon.