Hurricane Sandy and the Mayor’s “Disaster Capitalist” Priority: The New York Marathon

Friday, Nov 02 2012

‘The city is talking about getting ready for the marathon… we’re pulling bodies out of the water’: Congressman lashes out at New York officials for pushing ahead with event … New York residents are angry that emergency services are diverted towards Sunday’s marathon … Generators could be used to provide power for homes left without electricity for four days

By Eddie Wrenn and Beth Stebner, One News Page (UK)

2 November 2012

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are still suffering black-outs, with wide swathes of the city still without electricity.  But the media centre for this Sunday’s New York Marathon – which is still going ahead despite the widespread devastation landed on the city – will no suffer such problems.  For organisers have installed two emergency generators, as well as a back-up, to keep news of the event flowing.

The three generators could provide power for 400 homes – and the revelation has prompted outrage in a city which, in parts, has suffered four nights without heat or electricity.

In Central Park today…

Ready for action: The New York Marathon will still go on despite the city's widespread devastationReady for action: The New York Marathon will still go on despite the city’s widespread devastation

In Staten Island today…

The other side: Dulce Espino (left) and Viridiana Cruz weep in their Staten Island neighborhood where many houses were completely destroyedThe other side: Dulce Espino (left) and Viridiana Cruz weep in their Staten Island neighborhood where many houses were completely destroyed

At a news conference Friday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his decision to go ahead with the marathon as a way to raise money for the city and boost morale less than a week after Sandy knocked out power and left a death toll of nearly 100 people.

He noted that his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, went ahead with the New York Marathon two months after 9/11.

‘If you go back to 9/11, Rudy made the right decision in those days to run the marathon and pull people together,’ Bloomberg said.

The mayor added that the marathon’s organizers are ‘running this race to help New York City, and the donations from all the runners in the club will be a great help for our relief efforts.’

Earlier this week, the mayor said the race wouldn’t siphon off resources from the storm recovery, noting electricity is expected to be restored to all of Manhattan by race day, freeing up ‘an enormous number of police.’

The course runs from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on hard-hit Staten Island to Central Park, sending runners through all five boroughs.

Marathon material? Mayor Michael Bloomberg tours a storm damaged area of Tottenville in Staten IslandMarathon material? Mayor Michael Bloomberg tours a storm damaged area of Tottenville in Staten Island
Race is on: The Mayor insists the Marathon will not interfere with the recovery of the cityRace is on: The Mayor insists the Marathon will not interfere with the recovery of the city
Mounds of debris pile up in the street in the heavily damaged Rockaway neighborhoodCarnage: Mounds of debris pile up in the street in the heavily damaged Rockaway neighborhood
Destructive tides: A large section of the iconic Queens boardwalk was washed awayDestructive tides: A large section of the iconic Queens boardwalk was washed away
A front loader moves debris in Rockaway neighborhood: Most major bridges have reopened but will require three occupants in the vehicle to passA front loader moves debris in Rockaway neighborhood: Most major bridges have reopened but will require three occupants in the vehicle to pass

The course will not be changed, since there was little damage along the route.The marathon is now proving a divisive topic in New York – with many calling for the event to be cancelled.

Even today, as organisers put finishing touches to the finish line, people at the start line in Staten Island were crying as they saw their devastated neighborhood.

Residents – some of whom have had to wade through local dumpsters to find food and supplies – are demanding to know why the power is not being used to help those in desperate need.

The third generator will not even be in use unless there is an emergency – but given the city’s situation, it suggests the organisers’ definition of emergency is different to that of the residents.

Though officials in the storm-ravaged tri-state area say that plans to go ahead with the New York won’t affect recovery efforts, they appear to be in the minority.

Congressman Michael Grimm, whose district includes the devastated borough of Staten Island, was one of several prominent politicians who today voiced his fury that the annual race is going ahead, even while many on the island are without water, food, and electricity.

‘There’s no question I’m angry about it,’ the representative said.

‘The city of New York is talking about getting water out of the Battery Tunnel and getting ready for the marathon. We’re pulling bodies out of the water.’

Speaking with the TODAY show, Rep Grimm, who represents the 13th District of New York, said that residents of the borough are barely coping in the wake of Sandy, and the last thing on their minds is a race.

‘There are those walking the street and they seem almost hopeless,’ he said. ‘They’ve lost everything and there’s nowhere for them to go.’

Spectacular: The 26.2 mile course takes in all five of New York's boroughsPowered up: The generators to power the media tent for the New York Marathon could light up 400 New York’s homes
More than 100 homes were destroyed in Breezy Point, Queens: Flatbed trucks originally helping in rescue operations have now been sent to help prepare for the marathonMore than 100 homes were destroyed in Breezy Point, Queens: Flatbed trucks originally helping in rescue operations have now been sent to help prepare for the marathon
Hauled away: Garbage men disposed dozens of shopping carts full of ruined goods on Wednesday at the Fairway supermarket in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New YorkHauled away: Garbage men disposed dozens of shopping carts full of ruined goods on Wednesday at the Fairway supermarket in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York
Marathon route

Nevertheless, the Mayor’s office said: ‘Our recover efforts are ongoing and none of those will be impacted by the marathon. No resources will be diverted.’

‘There are people right now that have no heat who have no food and are sitting in the dark.

‘To say that we have enough resources just isn’t accurate. There’s a lot of unanswered questions. We feel that no one understands us.’

Staten Island Councilman James Oddo echoed Rep Grimm’s anger.

He said: ‘The notion of diverting even one police officer, one first responder, one asset away from this carnage, is beyond irrational,’ he told the Daily News.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw none of the damage or power outtages as insurmountable, and defended the decision to hold the race, insisting resources wouldn’t be diverted from storm victims.

He noted at a news conference on Thursday that electricity was expected to be restored to all of Manhattan by race day, freeing up ‘up an enormous number of police.’

‘This city is a city where we have to go on,’ he said.

But many New Yorkers don’t feel that accurately reflects the current situation.

A petition on Change.org asks Bloomberg and other officials to postpone the ING Marathon until the spring of next year.

‘Police, fire, and other emergency services should not be diverted to the Marathon during this time of crisis,’ the petition reads. ‘This event is always a positive event and it should not be turned into a hugely negative drain on city resources.’

Some critics are also questioning whether the marathon should go ahead at all.

As the city is under emergency executive orders, the governor, mayor or even the President could order that the generators be used for more humanitarian reasons, the New York Post reports.

With parts of the city expected to be without power for a week, the Post also reports that other valuable resources have been sent to help prepare for Sunday’s marathon, including more than a dozen police flatbed trucks, which were previous working at disaster points.

Still a long way to go: A woman walks along a sidewalk as debris from floodwater-damaged buildings is piled in the streets in Hoboken, New JerseyStill a long way to go: A woman walks along a sidewalk as debris from floodwater-damaged buildings is piled in the streets in Hoboken, New Jersey
Postman Mike Conroy delivers the mail to a pharmacy damaged by floodwaters as postal services resume in Hoboken, New JerseyPostman Mike Conroy delivers the mail to a pharmacy damaged by floodwaters in Hoboken, New Jersey
While officials are planning for a marathon, residents are still trying to figure out how to get their phones chargedWhile officials are planning for a marathon, residents are still trying to figure out how to get their phones charged

SHOULD WE COME OR NOT? RUNNERS FLY INTO A DEVASTATED CITY

Dave Reeder was supposed to fly from Denver to LaGuardia on Thursday with his wife and two children. Then they saw the photos of the flooded airport. Should they still try to make the trip?

The race felt a bit ‘frivolous,’ he said.

Hearing Bloomberg on TV convinced him to try and he hoped to volunteer in relief efforts while in New York.

His family planned to watch from three points along the course, but subway closures may prevent it.

If they can’t, it has practical implications for Reeder: He has type 1 diabetes, and his wife carries supplies he might need during the race.

Reeder, who is running as part of Team JDRF to raise money for diabetes research, said from the Denver airport on Thursday night that his flight was a go.

Julie Culley of Clinton, New Jersey, was stranded in Arlington, Virginia, when the storm hit. It turned out to be a blessing because she had power and could train.

An Olympian in the 5,000 meters, Culley is making her marathon debut. Her parents own a vacation home on Long Beach Island on the Jersey shore, which was rocked hard by Sandy.

‘I think our family probably escaped the worst of it,’ said Culley, whose parents were in Clinton when the storm hit.

‘I’ve seen terrible pictures of houses uprooted out of their foundations and houses completely knocked out.’

Her parents told her if Long Beach Island is open Sunday, they’ll go there and watch her on TV.

‘Now that we know for the most part what the damage is and the storm’s over,’ Culley said, ‘and we can put everything behind us and focus on the recovery effort in the state, I think now it’s time to shift focus toward the marathon again.’

Councilwoman Margaret Chin of Chinatown told The Post how she requested an emergency generator to pump water to stranded elderly residents.

But she says she was told by the Office of Emergency Management that ‘there are other priorities’.

Asked about the criticism from politicians, New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said a city going through a crisis must find the right time to move forward. She believes Sunday can be that day.

‘It’s hard in these moments to know what’s best to do,’ she told the Associated Press. ‘The city believes this is best to do right now.’

The marathon brings an estimated $340million into the city. Organizers will also use it as a backdrop to raise money for recovery efforts. Race organizer NYRR will donate $1million to the fund and said more than $1.5million in pledges already had been secured from sponsors.

The Post reports that the Hilton Garden Inn will not honour reservations from marathon runners if it means removing refugees of Sandy.

The general manager Frank Sanchez said: ‘While we understand they have reservations, we know they are going back to their regular lives in two days. Our neighbors will not have that opportunity.’

The organisers have allegedly paid $37,500 simply for the licence to run the generators.

Road Runners spokesman Richard Finn told the Post: ‘These are our private generators. We are not draining any resources from the city’s plan to recover.’

Carnage: The devastation left by Super Storm Sandy at Breezy Point, Queens, New YorkCarnage: The devastation left by Super Storm Sandy at Breezy Point, Queens, New York

In an editorial, the New York Daily News said: ‘Running the NYC Marathon on Sunday through the five boroughs is not what this city needs.

‘Who needs electricity, when we can watch tens of thousands of runners testing their physical limits on our streets?

‘That’s how it will be sold to America. And of course, this is nonsense. It is almost always nonsense when we turn sports events into something more important than what they are.

‘The Marathon is being run, mainly, because it would be a pain in the neck to reschedule, and because it would cost organizers and local businesses a ton of money.

‘Not because this race is of any importance to the people who are huddled in shelters right now, still waiting for some hot water, or sitting homeless after their buildings have burned to the ground.

‘And definitely not because it is the right thing to do
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2226735/New-York-Marathon-Congressman-lashes-officials-pushing-ahead-event.html#ixzz2B5qyTvfc
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