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. Continue reading

Prisoner Advocates Question Evacuation Plan for 12,000 Inmates in Path of Hurricane Sandy

Monday Oct 29, 2012 3:31 pm

By Amy Armstrong, In These Times

As much of New York prepares for the possibility of evacuation, 12,000 inmates at Rikers Island, which lies in the water between Queens and the Bronx, will remain in the facility throughout Hurricane Sandy’s worst wind, rain and waves.

New York Mayor Bloomberg made this clear at a press conference over the weekend, when he replied in response to a question about the safety of the 12,000 inmates, “”Rikers Island, the land is up where they are and jails are secured. Don’t worry about anybody getting out.”

In 2011, Bloomberg faced backlash when Rikers Island was left blank on the map showing evacuation zones for the city. Though Hurricane Irene resulted in the unprecedented evacuation of 250,000 New Yorkers, officials acknowledged that there was no evacuation plan for the prison. After the Centre for Constitutional Rights issued a statement urging that the prisoners’ lives “should not be treated as less valuable than those of other New Yorkers,” the mayor’s office said that it had reviewed the safety of the island and found that it did not need to be evacuated. Continue reading

New York: Despite emergency evacuations, prisoners were kept in harm’s way

Storm Over Rikers: Evacuating New York’s Island Jail
October 31, 2011
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway, Solitary Watch

Rikers Island

Two recent stories in the New York City media delve into the controversy surrounding the lack of an emergency evacuation plan for Rikers Island. Solitary Watch’s original story on this subject went viral in the days leading up to Hurricane Irene. In our follow-up we cited the response from the New York City Department of Corrections, which stated that prisoners on Rikers had never been in danger during Irene, but also left the impression that there was no plan in place to evacuate the island in case of a more powerful storm or other emergency.

City Limits published a long piece titled “Hurricane Passes, But Worries About Rikers Evacuation Remain,” which begins with a recap of the controversy:

In August, as the city was scrambling to prepare for what many were predicting to be a potentially devastating hurricane, controversy arose over what was otherwise an innocuous answer at a press conference: There would be no evacuation of Rikers Island, Mayor Bloomberg said.

After a prisoner advocacy blog called Solitary Watch posted something about the mayor’s announcement—drawing comparisons to stranded prisoners left behind in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina—a number of other websites followed suit, along with a few traditional news outlets.  Twitter users caught on shortly after; a petition demanding the city take action was circulated. Many were struck by the fact that while the city was shutting down its transportation system and making other unprecedented storm plans, the some 14,000 people housed on Rikers Island would stay put. Continue reading

Hurricane Irene: Why failing to evacuate inmates violates human rights standards

By Chris Kromm, Institute for Southern Studies
August 27, 2011–As Hurricane Irene makes its way up the Atlantic seaboard, officials in New York are coming under growing fire for failing to authorize an evacuation of Rikers Island, the city’s main jail complex housing about 12,000 inmates.

Unlike North Carolina, which evacuated over 1,300 inmates before Irene struck, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has resisted calls to safely remove inmates from the facility; indeed, news reports say that it doesn’t even have an evacuation plan.

The disparate approaches to ensuring the safety of inmates points to larger shortcomings in U.S. and state disaster policy, which has yet to fall in line with international human rights standards. In 1998, the United Nations issued the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which looks at how governments can protect rights before, during and after major disasters.

As the Institute for Southern Studies documented in an in-depth 2008 report on the Guiding Principles and Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. hasn’t formally ratified the standards, but has repeatedly embraced them: In 2004, the U.S. State Department called for “wider recognition of the U.N. guiding principles” as a “useful framework” for disaster policy.

What do the Guiding Principles say about treatment of inmates during a disaster? In Principle Four, the U.N. clearly prohibits discrimination on the basis of “legal status” during disaster response. In other words, if it’s decided that evacuation is the best way to protect residents, that has to be applied to all people. Continue reading