In the face of withering criticism, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and organizers of the New York City Marathon announced Friday that the race, scheduled for Sunday, will be canceled.
“The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination,” Mr. Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners, the marathon’s organizers, said in a joint statement. “We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. 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.”
Mr. Bloomberg had taken significant heat for originally planning to press on with the race as New York — particularly Staten Island, where the marathon was to start — and New Jersey still struggle to recover from Hurricane Sandy.
“The Marathon has been an integral part of New York City’s life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch,” the statement read. “While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division.”
Indeed, Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn, sharply criticized Mr. Bloomberg earlier in the day for his previous decision to hold the race as planned.
“We’re still pulling bodies out of the water and the mayor is worried about marathon runners and returning to life as normal,” Mr. Grimm said. “The Verrazano Bridge should be used for getting fuel and food in to Staten Island, not getting runners out. Police resources would be best allocated to prevent looting and in rescue and recovery operations.”
Earlier in the week, Mr. Bloomberg said at a press conference that the city must press on, and that small businesses that depend on the race also must come to mind as well.
“The marathon is not going to redirect any focus,” he said. “Some people said you shouldn’t run the marathon. There are 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.”
Local officials, too, had blasted the decision.
“If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream,” New York City Councilman James Oddo tweeted. “We have people with no homes and no hope right now.”
At least 37 of the approximately 100 deaths attributed to Hurricane Sandy came from New York, and at least 19 of those from Staten Island, home to about 500,000.
The New York Road Runners are to have additional information in the coming days for participants.
“We’re not looking to be a drain on any of the city resources,” NYRR spokesman Richard Finn told Reuters.