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Mayor Bloomberg Lets NYC Marathon Proceed as Millions Remain Without Power, Gas, and Food

New York, NY – As they scramble for food, gas, and basic living necessities, a growing number of people in the New York City area are making their displeasure known about Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to let the NYC marathon go on this coming Sunday.

The death toll is approaching 100 and millions will be without power for days to come in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The city of New York has imposed a 3-person-per-car minimum for commuters and the city’s subway system is under water. Staten Islanders say they are receiving little aid at all and politics is raising its head in every borough. And many New Yorkers have had enough.

Politicians from especially hard-hit areas, including state Sen. Liz Krueger and city council members David Greenfield and James Oddo, all called for the race’s postponement or cancellation, arguing the city’s resources shouldn’t be diverted from hurricane relief. Consider the following tweets and email messages from local leaders:

Senator Liz Krueger@LizKrueger: Many elderly/disabled trapped w/ no food or electric! Tell@MikeBloomberg @nycrr to move marathon, focus on

David G. Greenfield@NYCGreenfield: Mayor now says “marathon will not redirect any focus” from recovery. Hard to believe. Has he been to Seagate, the Rockways or Staten Island?

James Oddo: No resources should be diverted from our community to staff the NYC Marathon. If you saw what I saw in South Beach, Midland Beach & New Drop Beach this morning you would know how idiotic it would be to take even one asset away from people in dire need.

Senator Krueger said the situation is a nightmare in her district on the eastern side of Manhattan. “People are trapped on roofs”, she said. “Disabled people can’t get help. ConEd workers can’t get through traffic to power lines in need of fixing, and they’re running out of gas for their trucks. And yet we have a marathon going on Sunday which in theory will require an enormous amount of police and ambulances.”

Krueger suggested that the 8,000 volunteers who signed up to help with the marathon should instead offer aid with hurricane relief. And as for the runners, Krueger sees them as a valuable resource. “We can use them running up 80 flights of buildings,” she said, “saving elderly people.”

Even some runners have called for canceling the event. “I’m a big fan of the marathon, but this is the most hair-brained, self-serving act of idiocy I’ve even seen,” Gene Ratcliff wrote on the New York Road Runners Facebook page, according to the New York Daily News. “Cancel the race, give the entrants auto-entry for next year, and let law enforcement, EMS, and all the other agencies take care of getting the city up and running.”

Mayor Bloomberg dismissed criticisms at a press conference Thursday, saying the marathon will not place too heavy a burden the city’s police department. “The city is a city where we have to go on,” he said, according to the New York Times.

And Mary Wittenburg, chief executive of the New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, said, “This isn’t about running. 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.”

The New York Times sports section offered a scathing editorial concerning this decision to go on with the event:

For some reason, the uplifting value of the New York City Marathon, however, is so off the charts in Bloomberg World that nothing trumps diverting countless police and sanitation resources to marathon duty, even when parts of the metropolitan area lie in ruins and the city is mired in transportation hell. Even many of the runners who posted comments on The Times’s article about the announcement are questioning the wisdom of this. Many are not showing up because they cannot abide the decision. Others just could not get here if they wanted to. It’s a chore just to get here from towns right across the rivers. The runner and journalist Mario Fraioli writes on that the decision to hold the race is wrongheaded.

Wrongheaded and confusing is what most would say. Mayor Bloomberg made a big show of cancelling an NBA game in a relatively unaffected area and then approved a marathon that will involve tens of thousands of runners, race officials and workers, and law enforcement in areas where people are digging through dumpsters for food.

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