Mayor Michael Bloomberg is facing bitter criticism over his decision to hold the New York City Marathon as scheduled on Sunday, just days after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of Gotham. Nowhere was the outrage more palpable than in Staten Island. That's the borough where the massive, world-famous race will start, and it's also the part of the city that took the brunt of the superstorm's fury. Residents — many of whom have lost their homes and businesses and gone days without electricity and water — are complaining that they're being forgotten. Staten Island Councilman James Oddo said it was "idiotic" to stage the ING Marathon while people still need to be rescued in the hard-hit South Shore area. He's urging Bloomberg to cancel the marathon. The mayor says going ahead with the race is critical to the economy, and will show the city's resilience without sapping resources needed for the recovery. Here, three reasons he might want to change his mind and call off the event:
1. The race will divert resources that could save lives
Bloomberg is right about a lot of things, says Ben Cosgrove at TIME. A sporting contest like this can lift spirits, and, in a normal year, the marathon would pump a much-needed $340 million into the city's economy. Still, "inviting tens of thousands of people, many from out of town, to run through the streets of New York less than a week after the biggest Atlantic storm in history" is a "profound and irresponsible error in judgment." The droves of cops, emergency personnel, sanitation workers and others needed to run the race could otherwise be doing work that could "save lives that are still in the balance." Going ahead with the race — instead of at least postponing it by a month or so — means Bloomberg can live with the risk that someone will die as a result. "As a man and as a mayor, though, he will be diminished by having taken it."
2. Holding the race now is an insult to victims
Bloomberg insists that the dozens of New Yorkers who died in the storm would want the city to press on with the race, for the sake of its economy and future, says Alfred P. Doblin at NewJersey.com. That's "somewhere between insensitive and idiotic." Saying that someone "who died as a result of Hurricane Sandy would give a hoot about the New York City Marathon shows how out of touch Michael Bloomberg is with real people."
3. More congestion is the last thing the city needs
The marathon will clog roads in Staten Island and the rest of the city at the worst possible time, says Lisa Swan at Subway Squawkers. "How are you going to get 50,000-plus people on Staten Island when the roads are so congested?" This will be happening on the same weekend when the ferry to the island is supposed to start working again. "What about Islanders who actually need to start rebuilding their lives again? Why should their needs play second fiddle to sports?" Plus, every year some of the marathon runners wind up in the hospital, and right now every bed is needed for "the truly ill people who have already been evacuated from other hospitals due to the hurricane."
Update: Late on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the New York City Marathon would be canceled, after all. "While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort," he said in a statement, "it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division."