BREAKING UPDATE: The New York Marathon has been canceled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Still, this story deserves attention.
Richard Nicotra, the owner of the Staten Island, New York’s Hilton Garden Inn, says that he will not evict guests who had to evacuate their homes due to Hurricane Sandy, even though people planning to run in this Sunday’s New York Marathon have reservations to stay at the hotel. The superstorm has killed at least 102 people so far, 41 of whom were Staten Island residents.
As NY1.com reports, marathoners planning to stay at the hotel are not happy about Nicotra’s decision to do the right thing. But even Mary Wittington, the president of the New York Road Runners which sponsors the race, thinks that evacuees’ needs comes first. She rather emphasized that marathoners coming to New York are doing so in support and that they “will find a way.”
Nicotra sums up the issue in NY1.com:
How do I tell people who have no place to go, that have no home, no heat, that you have to leave because I have to make room for somebody that wants to run the marathon? I can’t do that.
Nicotra has also offered a number of ballrooms in his hotel as shelters for evacuees. The problem is, after Sandy, there’s a shortage of cots.
With those across the New York region contending with no electricity as temperatures drop, long lines at gas stations along with fuel shortages, still more lines for essentials (food, water), closed schools and businesses, many are questioning Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to still hold the marathon. Bloomberg said on Friday that ”We have to have a city going forward/ New York has to show that we are here, that we are going to recover.” He stated that only a “relatively small amount of Sanitation Department resources” would be needed for the marathon, that there are plenty of police offices in “areas not affected” and that the marathon will “give people something to cheer about.”
But both the city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, and City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn, have publicly disagreed with Bloomberg’s decision. The New York Police Department has actually called for retirees to assist with both storm work and the logistics of the marathon, in contradiction, it would seem, to Bloomberg’s assertion.
50,000 runners are expected for the marathon. But thousands more of the city’s own residents still lack essentials (food, water, electricity).
Simon Ressner, a lieutenant in the Fire Department who has been planning to run in the marathon, has urged the marathon’s organizers to postpone it. As he pointed out to the New York Times, first responders including police officers and fire department personnel not only have their hands full with post-Hurricane Sandy efforts, but are needed for unpredictable issues, such as helping to direct traffic (and tempers) at the increasingly long lines on the region’s roadways (including the interstate) for fuel. Says Ressner about the decision to still run the race, “…we’re not going to show the world we’re resilient, we’re going to show them we’re selfish.”
For an example of a New Yorker who’s showing resiliency and generosity, all eyes should be on Nicotra, the hotel owner out on Staten Island who has put first those who are enduring the chaos created by Sandy.
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Photo of Staten Island by Tomathon