Opinion: Marathon Cancelled, but Damage to Bloomberg's Rep is Done
Friday, November 02, 2012
That it took until 5 p.m. Friday to cancel the marathon is an insult.
There were three New Yorks, Derek Thompson noted in The Atlantic days after the hurricane hit. There was the one underwater, the one dry with no power and the one that was barely affected.
I'm lucky to live in the last one.
My hardships have consisted of long lines at the supermarket and having to go pick up a pizza as they wouldn't deliver it. The horror, I know.
Mayor Bloomberg was lucky to live in the last one too.
My family and friends have not been so lucky. My in-laws house in Woodmere, Long Island, flooded and then caught fire. They waited outside during the storm for three hours for the fire department. They're staying with friends who also still have no power. I have friends in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, who have lost their homes. My Facebook has been filled for days with people wondering where to get diapers or formula for their children, sharing stories of burglaries, looting, scams involving men coming to their doors in fake uniforms, utter destruction of home and property, fear of the future, gratefulness at survival.
Let me tell you a story about a group of buildings in Brooklyn called Amalgamated Warbasse Houses. It's a series of 15 Mitchell-lama buildings in Coney Island. There is a high concentration of elderly people in the Warbasse buildings, many of them of Russian descent, as I am. The buildings are 20 stories high each.
If you look up the Warbasse in the news from the last few days, you won't find any mention of it. But it is in dire straits. In addition to no power, they also have no gas. It's one thing not to have heat, another to not be able to make any food. Elderly people are trapped on the high floors with no way to get out.
Here's a comment from a Warbasse resident on a Russian parents board who, along with his wife and two children, is currently homeless: "Approximately 350-650 seniors trapped in my buildings in Coney Island Warbasse, rumors of National Guard coming to enforce evacuation...Broken gas line, no heat, no power, no hot water, animals with no place to go, no incinerator to throw trash, so people throw out the windows and in the halls, rats and roaches here!!! You declare a mandatory evacuation but shelters are full, and there is no gas for cars anywhere. DOT won't allow people to cross bridges and tunnel, buses too full, no trains."
If Warbasse Houses were on the Upper East Side, your friends in Texas, Sweden and Fiji would have heard about it by now. It is nothing short of a disaster area. If you live in 2 out of the 3 New Yorks your life may have been inconvenienced in the last few days. I'm a new business owner and being closed for several days hurt us. But because we're in the relatively unaffected third New York, we've bounced back. Warbasse is nowhere near bouncing back. I don't know when it will or if it will. If Warbasse Houses were on the Upper East Side, our mayor would not even consider letting the marathon go on.
Which brings me to the offensiveness that was the insistence by the mayor that the marathon continue this Sunday.
His comment on Friday was, "Rudy had it right, you have to keep going and doing things...you can grieve & cry & laugh all at same time."
I'm not against people living their lives just because other people remain in a state of trauma. Go watch the Giants game at the stadium in New Jersey. Go see a Broadway show. I would have supported the Village Halloween parade proceeding as planned, if we had the manpower for it. I get it: life goes on.
But to have 40,000 people run through boroughs which are still suffering, still flooded, still destroyed, still without power was just unconscionable. The pictures of the generators ready to heat the tents of the runners in Central Park can, and should, be used in places like Warbasse Housing.
I'm a natural-born-Capitalist. I want everyone to make money. I understand the argument about lost revenue, but in the wake of the destruction that has been Hurricane Sandy this argument makes no sense.
The hotels that would have been losing money if the marathon was canceled are filled with victims of the Sandy. Should we have put them out to host 40,000 out-of-town runners?
The businesses that would have been supported by the visiting marathoners are in areas that are already up and running. If you look at the map the runners will follow, their only real opportunity to support businesses along the route is north of 59th street on First Avenue (as opposed to on the highway in Brooklyn or the bridge in Staten Island). That area has had power the whole time and has had an influx of people from the areas without power supporting these businesses, since they are the only ones open. The businesses which have been truly hurt will go untouched by the runners as they still don't have power (and when they do they will likely not operate at full capacity on day one).
We are New Yorkers—all three New Yorks—and we stood as one to oppose this marathon. I'm proud of us, but I remain disgusted by our mayor and ashamed that I ever voted for him. He has lived in his version of the third New York his whole life and never has that been more evident than in his response to the marathon. If he knew someone at Warbasse, it would have been a very different last few days.