NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg came under fire Friday for pressing ahead with this weekend's New York Marathon in a city still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, with some New Yorkers saying that holding the 26.2-mile race would be insensitive and divert police and other important resources when many are still suffering.
Joan Wacks, whose Staten Island waterfront condo was swamped with 4 feet of water, predicted authorities will still be recovering bodies when the estimated 40,000 runners from around the world hit the streets Sunday, and she called the mayor "tone deaf."
"He is clueless without a paddle to the reality of what everyone else is dealing with," she said. "If there are any resources being put toward the marathon, that's wrong. I'm sorry, that's wrong." She added: "We totally understand the public relations aspect, to show everyone survived. But this is not one of those times."
One of the world's pre-eminent road races, the New York Marathon generates an estimated $340 million into the city.
At a news conference, Bloomberg defended his decision as a way to raise money for the stricken city and boost morale less than a week after Sandy flooded neighborhoods, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands homes and businesses and killed at least 39 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. He said 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 "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. The course will not be changed, since there was little damage along the route.
Mary Wittenberg, president of the race organizer, New York Road Runners, cast the marathon as a way for the city to begin moving forward.
The organizers said they will use the race to raise money for the city's recovery. The NYRR will donate $1 million and said more than $1.5 million in pledges has already been secured from sponsors.
"It's hard in these moments to know what's best to do," Wittenberg said. "The city believes this is best to do right now."
She said postponing the race would have cost local businesses a lot of money.
New Yorker Michael Sofronas used to run the marathon and has been a race volunteer for four years, serving as an interpreter for foreign runners. But he said he won't volunteer this year.
"I'm also really very aghast at the fact that we've just gone through the Sandy hurricane and I believe that the people should not be diverted to the marathon. They should focus on the people in need," he said. "It's all about money, money from everybody. The sponsors, the runners."