Race organizers announced earlier this week that the 43rd annual New York City Marathon would still run as planned this Sunday, despite Hurricane Sandy’s damage to the city. Initially, some worried that the race could be a dangerous course for runners. But now that the organizers are preparing for the race, more are getting pissed off as they see resources–including generators and NYPD trucks–getting siphoned off from hurricane relief efforts. And as thousands of hurricane victims in the race’s five boroughs still struggle without power–many without homes at all–it’s not reading as quite the inspirational event that usually graces our city every November.
New York Road Runners–the official marathon organizers–are calling it “The Race To Recover.” Likewise, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s defended his decision to proceed with the race by invoking the spirit and resilience of the city. He also cited the economic boost it would provide to small businesses:
There’s an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy.
It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you know, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.
But a New York Post article published this morning paints a different picture: Once in which three diesel-powered generators (that are costing a $37,500 fee with the Fire Department to run until Sunday’s race) are being used to fuel a giant media tent in Central Park. They estimate that the generators could provide up to 400 homes with electricity–something many parts of Staten Island, where the race begins, and downtown Manhattan are still suffering without.
They also discuss contention over the use of NYPD forces, including trucks that were being used for disaster relief efforts in Queens, where over 100 homes burnt to the ground in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
But beyond the logistics, many runners–even those who were planning to run in this year’s race–find the decision to proceed insensitive, calling it a “slap in the face” to New Yorkers who are still in need. NYRR’s Facebook page is inundated with comments from runners who are offended by the race plans, and there’s even been backlash from New York officials, including New York Councilman James Oddo and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Stringer told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie:
The prudent course of action here — postpone the marathon, come back a different day. Our first priority, let’s help people who lost their homes, who are missing loved ones.
I love the NYC Marathon–every year I’ve lived in New York, I’ve woken up early and rushed to the sidelines to watch. Many years I’m moved to tears by the athletes, but this year, I have to say I agree with Stringer. While so many people are still in need of help, using massive resources to run a race isn’t inspiring.
Photo: flickr user fergie_lancealot, NYRR