Aftermath of superstorm Sandy leaves New York city reeling
DEVOID OF power, typically bustling downtown Manhattan resembles a ghost town, stripped even of its usual traffic, with petrol shortages and disputes over the annual New York City Marathon the latest fallout from superstorm Sandy.
The ongoing level of the rescue and recovery operation in the city sparked intense criticism of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initial decision to allow the New York City Marathon to go ahead this Sunday, before that decision was reversed last night.
“While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division,” Mr Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners, which organises the race, said in a statement yesterday.
“The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination,” they said in the statement. “We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it.”
The marathon was scheduled to shut more than 20 miles of city roads and typically requires about 1,000 police officers.
Staten Island, where the race was due to begin, was among the worst-affected areas, with Mr Bloomberg saying that out of the 41 people killed in the city by the storm, about half of the deaths were on the island borough that lies across New York Harbour in lower Manhattan. Along with most of the city’s coastal neighbourhoods, the area resembled a disaster zone.
Staten Island councilman James Oddo had spoken for many when he urged the mayor to reconsider allowing the race to go ahead.
“If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream. We have people with no homes and no hope right now.”
Condemnation also came from the New York Post, whose cover story yesterday criticised the decision to go ahead with the event.
The generators placed in Central Park for the race, it pointed out, were badly needed elsewhere: “The three diesel-powered generators crank out 800 kilowatts – enough to power 400 homes in ravaged areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways and downtown Manhattan.”
One runner admitted he hadn’t been looking forward to Sunday: “I do feel odd and a little bit self- conscious about it,” said Aaron Ernst. “The experience I was hoping to have – a celebratory one where people come to cheer you on – it’s not looking like that’s going to happen.”
While the race generated tension, severe petrol shortages were a more pressing concern for most people. One New Yorker described how she waited in line for more than three hours at a petrol station on Thursday and that fights broke out twice after people were accused of skipping the queue and police had to be called.
“It’s a very frustrating thing,” said Orla Kelleher, director of the Aisling Community Center in the heavily Irish neighbourhood of Yonkers in the north Bronx.
“In less than 24 hours we’ve had such an overwhelming response for our relief appeal, enough to fill four vans – yet we can’t find the gas to drive the supplies to those in need.”
Relief efforts such as the Aisling centres have been cropping up citywide since Thursday as the city begins to shows signs of recovery, with mass transit kicking in and power restoration promised to most places by the weekend.
Brooklyn resident Karla Mickens described how she went to local school Brooklyn Tech to volunteer with a displaced medical team from Coney Island and their evacuated elderly residents.
“My friends and I volunteered at the night shift, not as part of any organisation or anything. People are just doing it and helping in their neighbourhoods.”
– Additional reporting: Reuters