Christine Quinn Questions the Mayor's Marathon Decision
NEW YORK CITY — As anger turned into rage over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's insistence that the New York City Marathon run this weekend, one of his most faithful allies, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, came out against him.
"The decision to move forward with the marathon is not a decision I would have made," Quinn said in a statement released Friday afternoon. "That said, I think we need to look forward and continue to focus on the task at hand — helping those without electricity, food and water and rebuilding our city."
More than 40,000 runners were expected to descend on New York City for the marathon, which winds through all five boroughs and represents one of the world's premier road-running events. That influx of visitors has jammed up city hotels.
"We are at full capacity every night," said Clara Bido, office coordinator at the Hilton New York in Midtown. "We don't have any rooms available. We have lots of people arriving. It's a little bit hectic."
With no place left to go, residents who had been staying at the hotels have instead turned to shelters. Jason Poluck, head of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told DNAinfo.com New York that the federally run John Jay Evacuation Center has seen an increase in those seeking shelter.
"There are no hotel rooms because every hotel is booked with the marathon," said Poluck, who has worked every hurricane since Andrew in 1992. His disaster team, he continued, typically stays at hotels.
"We've had a challenge because of the lack of hotel rooms and have been sleeping with the patient population."
As Quinn was releasing her statement, other presumptive mayoral candidates were also jumping on the anti-marathon bandwagon.
Pubic Advocate Bill de Blasio also took to Twitter Friday afternoon to call for the marathon to be postponed.
"The needs are too great to divert resources from recovery," he tweeted. "We must postpone the Marathon to focus on public safety & relief operations."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also sent out a statement asking for the marathon to be postponed, along with John Liu and Bill Thompson.
A petition on Change.org calling for the race to be postponed until spring included more than 23,000 signatures Friday afternoon. The marathon's Facebook page, meanwhile, had attracted close to 2,000 comments about the race, and a Facebook group called Boycott 2012 NYC Marathon had attracted more than 700 members.
"Half of my neighborhood is now floating in the ocean. Some of my neighbors are dead. I have had no electricity/heat/running water/cell service for three days," Facebook user and Woodside resident Eileen Dellibovi wrote on the ING New York City Marathon Facebook page. "Maybe after all of the dead are recovered, we can 'enjoy' this sporting event."
Bloomberg has stood by his decision to keep the marathon on track.
The race "doesn't use resources that can really make a difference in recovery...it's a different group of people," he said at a Friday afternoon press conference. "We have plenty of police officers that work in areas that aren't affected.... There will be no diversion of resources...no diminution of our efforts."
The NYPD did not respond to questions regarding the number of officers it typically puts on detail at the marathon, but the event does require a large outlay of resources, from emergency workers to volunteers, food, water and electricity.
DNAinfo.com New York's photos of three enormous generators that were placed in Central Park for the event sparked a large outcry Friday.
Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro called the decision to hold the race "crazy, asinine."
Manhattan Borough President candidate and former Community Board 1 chairwoman Julie Menin also called on the mayor and race organizers to delay the event. Holding the race on Sunday, she argued in a statement, is "misguided:"
At a press conference late Friday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wouldn't wade into the controversy.
"I think that's a decision best left to the local officials," Cuomo said. "I understand there's a difference of opinion by the local officials, I understand that there's a debate."