NYC Marathon canceled in wake of Sandy

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the storm-related deaths stood

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the storm-related deaths stood at 41, up from 39 on Nov. 1. AP video. (Nov. 1, 2012) (Credit: AP)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called off the annual marathon Friday after a rising chorus of dissenters said hosting the race would be wrong while residents are still reeling from the effects of a devastating storm.

"The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination," said Bloomberg and New York Road Runners, which organizes the prestigious race that has been held without interruption since 1970. "We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it."

The statement went on to say: "We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event -- even one as meaningful as this -- to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."


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That announcement came after ordinary New Yorkers, some runners and prominent officials, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch, said hosting the race before the city is back on its feet sends the wrong message.

Bloomberg said that the 26.2-mile race would not divert city resources from the massive restoration effort, but his critics, like Shay Bernier of Staten Island, weren't convinced.

"I think it's wrong," said Bernier, 25, who has been stuck in Brooklyn since the storm. "Staten Island is a mess. People can't even get out of their houses."

She and others worried about any diversion of resources at a time like this.

"Parts of our city are completely devastated and our members have left their own families and problems to help the city work through this disaster," Lynch said. "The New York City Marathon should be postponed until the city is fully recovered."

The latest figures compiled by officials show that superstorm Sandy claimed at least 41 lives in the city -- 19 in hard-hit Staten Island alone -- with damage estimates totaling in the tens of billions of dollars.

Two Long Island marathoners whose lives were affected by the damage caused by the storm said they were relieved.

"They took the pressure off of us, the runners, from having to make a choice," said Marcia Goldberg, 54, of Massapequa.

Added Jill Loveland, 26, of Long Beach, "As sad as I am that they're not having the race, I think it's the right move to make. It's bittersweet."

Before Sandy, both women were looking forward to this race because of what makes it so unique -- the intense support of locals throughout the course.

But taking part in what is typically referred to as a festive 26.2-mile block party through the city's five boroughs didn't seem right after Sandy wreaked havoc on so many lives.

TriBeCa resident Gabi Sasson, 30, said she was upset that Bloomberg planned to allow the marathon to go on while some residents are still living without electricity, heat and water.

"This marathon is driving me crazy," she said. "We have enough problems. To me, that's very frustrating and disappointing."

One Staten Island hotelier, Richard Nicotra, owner of Hampton Inn & Suites, and a Hilton Garden Inn in the Bloomfield area canceled reservations of marathoners to house people displaced by the storm.

He said he's a born-and-bred Staten Islander, and that his community in crisis has to take precedence.

"We have actually canceled all the reservations for the marathon to keep people forced out by the storm in the hotel," he said. "It was a difficult decision but really the only decision. We can't stand by. We need to take care of our own people. People are dying on Staten Island. This is not Katrina, but it's close."

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