With a city still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Mike Bloomberg continued to push for the NYC Marathon to go on as scheduled this Sunday, November 4, 2012. Only when inundated by innumerable complaints about the insanity of such an event taking place in a ravaged environment as is the case in our city right now, did the Mayor finally back down.
His office released this statement: “We have decided to cancel the NYC Marathon. The New York Road Runners will have additional information in days ahead for participants.” This announcement is completely devoid of emotion. I suppose we should expect no less from a man who talks the same way about a crisis as he does above a positive situation. He makes Ben Stein seem animated in comparison.
The NYC Marathon is a fantastic sporting event. Runners go through all five boroughs of this great city, and the visual aesthetics are usually a delight as cameras pick up the essence of the town, the trees changing color, and the spectators cheering on the participants. Unfortunately, this year would have been a spectacle that could not help but capture the detritus of Hurricane Sandy, the devastation clearly still visible as it will be for weeks, months and, in some cases, years to come.
The race starts in Staten Island at the entrance to the Verrazano Bridge. Perhaps no borough has been hit harder than SI, with people living without power, streets flooded out, and many homes destroyed. How could the Mayor be so insensitive as to want the race to go on, especially with it starting there?
Each borough has had its difficulties. Brooklyn’s Coney Island has been hard hit, with long lines of people waiting at MCU Park (where the Brooklyn Cyclones play) to register with FEMA. Here the inhabitants of the famed NY Aquarium had to be evacuated because the influx of contaminated seawater not surprisingly threatened their survival. In Queens the community of Breezy Point was devastated by a flood and then a fire that wiped out between 80 to 100 homes. In the Bronx City Island residents were crushed by the storm, many flooded out and still without power. Perhaps most notably, Manhattan, the borough where most of the race takes place, still has people without power, flooded streets and subway stations, and people wandering around like bands of nomads seeking sustenance and assistance.
If the race had gone forward, it would have been a hard slap in the face of New Yorkers. Can you imagine anyone pushing to do something similar in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina? It is unfathomable how the Mayor and his team did not cancel it immediately, but it is now done and we have to be thankful for that.
The NYC Marathon is a showcase for New York and for forty years it has been something that all New Yorkers could enjoy. It brought people here from all over the world for a premier sporting event, and it rightly has been celebrated as an exciting moment annually in our town. While those who trained for it are no doubt disappointed, they must understand that the suffering all around them would have inhibited their ability to enjoy being participants. The race will be on again next year, and then we can show the world how well we have bounced back from this disaster.
Until then, the Mayor should harness all his resources to assist in the effort to get the power on again, aid in recovery efforts, and help New Yorkers get back to normal as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Mr. Bloomberg enjoys showmanship and events like the marathon provide him with a venue for that; however, the people yelled loudly and clearly, letting him know they wanted leadership and not showmanship. New Yorkers spoke up for their fellow residents who are still suffering, and the Mayor backed down. Way to go, New York!