UPDATE: 5:30 pm – New York City officials announce cancellation of New York City Marathon
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s controversial decision to move forward with the New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has raised a lot of questions, and has drawn the ire of many in and out of the New York area. But now hotel owners are caught in the middle of another storm.
Some hotels are housing storm refugees that have no power, shelter or food, and they are now faced with the decision of evicting those refugees to make room for marathon runners who had previously made reservations.
According to a report from NY1, several hotel owners, like Richard Nicotra, owner of Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island, have decided to let those who have been displaced by the storm remain in the hotel, turning away the paying guests who have arrived for the annual marathon.
“How do I tell people that have no place to go, that have no home, no heat, that you have to leave because I need to make room for someone who has to run a marathon? I can’t do that,” Nicotra said.
On the flip side of the coin, Mary Wittenburg, chief executive of the New York Road Runners, agreed with the decision to let refugees remain in hotels, and reassured that marathon organizers were not out to put the needs of the participants before the needs of the city.
“This isn’t about running,” she said. “This is about helping the city. We’re dedicating this race to the lives that were lost and helping the city recover. We want to raise money and awareness.”
But there are still a lot of New Yorkers who are outraged over the plan to move forward with the race, and think that the Mayor Bloomberg needs to direct resources towards hurricane recovery. When you consider the massive amount of police, fire and emergency units that are needed to attend to a marathon of this size, not to mention the amount of electricity and gasoline that will be needed, it doesn’t seem to make sense for this race to be held right now.
The area is still crippled with lack of public transportation due to flooding, and lack of parking because of abandoned vehicles. What sense does it make to try to bring over 45,000 people to one place in the city under circumstances such as these?
Many runners, such as Penny Krakoff, have decided to boycott the marathon in protest. Krakoff, a social worker from Crown Heights, N.Y. told Gothamist,com:
I cannot start a 26.2 mile run in Staten Island—people are missing, stranded, in need of resources. Brooklyn and Queens have equal devastation. Parts of Manhattan are without electricity, water, major hospitals are closed. The Bronx too has its own challenges. Today I will volunteer at a city evacuation shelter. Sunday morning I will catch the marathon bus to Staten Island. Not planning to run. Plan to volunteer instead and gather resources (extra clothes, bottles of water, food from runners at the start). Let’s not waste resources and attention on a foot race. Who is with me?
It would seem that there are many who are with Penny. For the Mayor to make the decision to go on with an event of this size which brings thousands upon thousands of visitors into New York City at a time when the residents of the city are in dire need of assistance is idiotic. All available resources should be directed at the recovery of the city and its residents, not wasted on a road race.
For a mayor who purports to be an advocate of the health and well being of his constituents, he should be focusing on them right now. It would seem making sure that the thinly spread resources of New York City are used properly is an even bigger health concern than the ability of citizens purchase of a Big Gulp soda.