Fall in New York City is a great time to be a tourist. The temperatures are cooler, the holiday crowds have yet to descend, and, if you time your visit right, you can enjoy one of the few events that unites the entire city: the ING NYC Marathon. This year, however, thousands of New Yorkers find themselves without power, water, and, in some cases, their homes. Whole neighborhoods have been wiped out. All of Lower Manhattan is a dead zone, without power, cell service, and other utilities. As much as we love to encourage people to travel, enjoy major events, and make the most out of every day, now is simply not the time to run a marathon through a city that can't even run its power.
There are massive generators set up in Central Park to support marathon operations. They could be powering up to 400 homes on Staten Island, coastal areas of Queens, or Lower Manhattan. Officials have contended that the generators are private and not part of city's arsenal of backup power. However, couldn't the company that owns these generators lend them to the city in this time of need?
The race starts on Staten Island, one of the hardest hit locations. People there lost everything they own. Almost half of the Sandy-related deaths in New York City occurred on Staten Island. The marathon will not provide a morale boost to those who are piecing together their lives. It will not lift their spirits or show them that New York City will carry on. Running this race displays a malicious disregard for human life and trades dignity for dollars.
Hotels that opened their doors to displaced New Yorkers and stranded visitors are now being forced to ask those guests to leave to make room for marathon runners and spectators. At least one hotel has refused to turn its back on those in need. The Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island is continuing to provide sanctuary to its neighbors and has cancelled many marathon reservations. That act, more than any marathon, makes us proud to call New York home.
Tourism will return to New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is right around the corner. With that, the holiday rush will start. Streets will be packed with shoppers, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit, and revelers will pack into Times Square to watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve. New York is resilient. We don't need the marathon to be run just to prove that. We know it already. Eleven years after 9/11, no one doubts the strength, character, or pride of New York and its residents.
The decision to go ahead with the marathon does have us doubting Mayor Bloomberg and the race organizers.
Canceling the race is inconvenient; running it is inhumane.
Update: The 2012 ING NYC Marathon has been cancelled. Common sense and compassion finally won out. Now back to focusing resources on helping those in need.