NEW YORK — The New York City Marathon is a go for Sunday, and while logistical questions persist one thing is certain: The 26-mile route will have a disaster for a backdrop.
And a debate.
“I think some people said you shouldn’t run the marathon,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news briefing Wednesday. “There’s an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy. There’s lots of people that have come here. It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.”
The marathon brings an estimated $340 million in economic impact to the city.
Race organizers were still trying to assess how widespread damage from Superstorm Sandy might affect plans, including getting runners into the city to transporting them to the start line on Staten Island. Easing their worries a bit was news that 14 of the city’s 23 subway lines were expected to be operating by Thursday morning - though none below 34th Street, an area that includes the city’s financial district and many tourist sites.
And there were runners like Josh Maio who felt torn about whether the race should go on.
“It pulls resources and focus away from people in need,” said Maio, who dropped out due to an injury but is coaching about 75 runners.
While he agrees the race is a boost to local businesses, he is uncomfortable with the city devoting so much to an “extracurricular” event.
Top American Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 men’s champion, regards the marathon as “something positive … because it will be motivation to say, ‘Look what happened, and we’ll put on the race, and we’ll give them a good show.’”
New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said organizers planned to use more private contractors than past years to reduce the strain on city services.
She compared this year’s race to the 2001 marathon, held seven weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as a way to inspire residents and show the world the city’s resilience.
She expects the field will be smaller than the 47,500 who ran last year because some entrants can’t make it to New York, but said so far organizers had received no more cancellations than normal.
Race organizers were rescheduling the elite runners’ flights to get them into New York on schedule.
Meantime, traffic choked city streets as residents tried to return to work. Two of three major airports in New York area re-opened with limited flights and limited commuter rail service resumed.
Utilities say it could be days before power is fully restored in the city and on Long Island.