Update: Friday night the New York City marathon was called off by Mayor Bloomberg.
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The decision to carry on with the New York City marathon in the wake of superstorm Sandy is coming under heavy criticism after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the move as a financial booster for small businesses. But not everyone is agreement.
“Some people said you shouldn’t run the marathon,” Bloomberg said in a press conference Wednesday. “There are an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy.”
Jimmy McBratney, president of the Staten Island Restaurant and Tavern Association and owner of Jimmy Max restaurants in the North and South Shore areas of the borough, said Bloomberg simply “doesn’t get it.”
“All things with Bloomberg are Manhattan-centric,” he said. “He can care less about the boroughs, it’s not even in the scope of his reality. When he talks about small businesses, he is not talking about Jimmy Max pizza; he is talking about a small multi-million dollar hotel.”
An expected 40,000 runners will begin their five-borough race in Staten Island—one of the hardest-hit areas of the storm and where the National Guard and FEMA arrived Friday.
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McBratney said he feels fortunate to have lost only three days of business at his North Shore location and reported his South Shore location was swamped with customers due to Halloween and the storm.
“There are people far more adversely affected than I—we lost power for only 64 hours,” he said. “It was my good fortune to not have water damage in either location and most of the things in my freezer remained frozen. One man’s feast is another man’s famine.”
Mark Jaffe, president and CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, said he supports Bloomberg’s move and said the city will benefit from being in the national spotlight because of the marathon.
“It’s not only an economic generator for small businesses, but it would be an economic disaster if we cancelled it,” he said. “These are the kind of things that show we are strong here and that we are surviving. This [the marathon] generates good and will bring in some much-needed tourism dollars and spending.”
He added that cancelling the marathon wouldn’t directly help Sandy victims. Opponents of the race argue that the generators being used throughout the 26-miles could better serve the out-of-power and homeless hurricane victims. Jaffe said the generators wouldn’t necessarily be allocated to the people in need.
“Generators are being brought in by the federal government and I don’t see this as taking away resources. These are not the only generators on the planet and we are not taking them away from people. People coming in and seeing the city and coverage will bring more people and more resources to help.”
Ari Dema, manager of his family business Dema Auto in the Stapleton area of Staten Island, said the resources being used for the marathon should be used elsewhere.
“They’re giving bottles of water to spill over their heads [during the marathon] when people in Staten Island have nothing to drink,” Dema said. “The generators, they can power up to 400 homes. Give them to people in the boroughs. There is not, to my knowledge, a single Staten Island business generates income from the marathon, aside from hotels. ”
McBratney agreed, saying the generators should be relocated.
“They are waiting to [use the generators] to power the tents for the marathon?” he said. “Those resources could be better used to power homes in the Midland beach area. Not sure the mayor’s logic that this [helps] small business is a solid argument.”
Although Dema’s business wasn’t majorly impacted by Sandy, with only minor flooding and power loss for the auto body shop, he said the marathon just isn’t good for morale.
“I understand [Bloomberg’s] point of view, he wants to show we survived the storm and can continue our lives,” he said. “But when Rockaway and Midland Beach are destroyed, why even have it?”