New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg caved to growing criticism this afternoon when he announced the New York Road Runner’s Marathon would be post-poned.
In a press statement issued from City Hall, Bloomberg said “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, so we have decided to cancel it.”
It’s a far cry from his earlier statements. “There are lots of people who have come here,” he said to CNN. “It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, 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.”
The 26.2-mile race route, which would have begun on Staten Island — one of the most devastated of boroughs — would have snaked through Brooklyn and Queens before cutting across the Queensboro Bridge onto Manhattan Island. The race route was expected to run past at least one gas station that had reported long lines of people holding gas cans, potentially posing a stark juxtaposition for photographers shooting 40,000 carefree runners streaming by.
And oddly enough, marathon runners would have been able to complete the course from Staten Island faster than most people were able to drive from Queens. The record run of two hours, five minutes and six second was veritably dwarfed this week by one commuter’s seven hour drive.
At least one hotel on Staten Island had said they would refuse to evict displaced residents to honor reservations made by runners.
“How do I tell people who have no place to go, that have no home, no heat, that you have to leave because I have to make room for somebody that wants to run the marathon?” asked hotel owner Richard Nicotra.
One ESPN columnist notably criticized Bloomberg in an editorial. “While there’s a lot at stake here for marathon organizers, athletes, sponsors, vendors and various others involved with the event, there’s even more at stake for the thousands of people who are still without power, forced out of their homes, can’t get out of their homes or otherwise are waiting for assistance to get their lives back in order,” wrote Mario Fraioli.
“Canceling the race isn’t about being unfair to the runners — it’s about being fair to a city and its residents that need every available resource to put itself back together, and for this reason, the show mustn’t go on.”
What will become of The NYRR’s three generators sitting at the marathon finish line in Central park remains an issue many will be watching.
“These are our private generators. We are not draining any resources from the city’s plan to recover,” Road Runners spokesman Richard Finn had angrily insisted.
However, it seems some common sense and decency is seeping into the race organization.
“It’s clear that the best thing for New York and the best thing for the marathon and the future is, unfortunately, to move on,” said Mary Wittenberg, chief executive of New York Road Runners. “This isn’t the year or the time to run it. It’s crushing and really difficult. One of the toughest decisions we ever made.”
George Hirsch, chairman of the board of Road Runners told the press that officials huddled all day Friday, hoping to devise an alternate race. They considered replacing the marathon with a race that would only cover the final 10 miles of marathon, starting at the base of the Queensboro 59th Street Bridge on the Manhattan side. But the plan was scrapped as unfeasible.
“We still want to do something, and we’re going to do something, but it won’t require generators or water.” Hirsch said.