One of the things I look forward to every year is waking up on the first Sunday in November and walking down the block to Lafayette Avenue in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, to cheer on the thousands of runners who compete in the NYC Marathon. People from all over the world come to this incredible city to run through all five boroughs in a test that challenges the human capacity. One of the most inspiring moments of my life was witnessing a man in a wheelchair pushing himself backwards with his feet up the hill of Lafayette Avenue as hundreds chanted his name. The look on his face is something I will never forget.
But, I will also never forget the look on the face of 83-year-old Ms. Sanchez, a refugee in her own city having lost electricity in her Brighton Beach home, who laid in a medical cot at the Park Slope Armory on Tuesday night who couldn’t stop weeping, asking me when she is going home, over and over again. I will never forget the look on the face of residents of Staten Island who begged the media to tell the government to relieve them from the misery of no food, no heat, no water and thousands of destroyed homes. I will never forget the look on the faces of the people still living without electricity in downtown Manhattan walking the streets with flashlights.
Our city is still weeping the tears caused by a storm named Sandy. Our city was prepared for a storm, but not prepared for the pain that has wrapped itself around our hearts in its aftermath. Our city has yet to lay to rest the souls of so many, including two young boys ripped from their helpless mother’s arms, on the forgotten borough. Our city is suffering. And Mr. Mayor, you must first take care of your residents before you take care of our visitors.
For example, there are no hotel rooms anywhere in the vicinity of New York City. One friend told me last night that she finally found a room…in York, Pennsylvania, so she packed her bags and off she went. If the marathon was canceled, thousands of hotel rooms would open up and New Yorkers would be able to have a warm shower and a hot meal for the first time in 5 days.
There is still no electricity in all of lower Manhattan. You first told us that it would be back today. Then you said Saturday. Now we hear Sunday. But what if it is not back by then? How long will people wait until they become restless and take their anger out in destructive ways? We should secure the safety of our residents before we secure a marathon route.
The people of Staten Island finally got your attention yesterday after they screamed from across the Verrazano Bridge begging and pleading for help. Instead of bringing every possible resource you have at your disposal to the people on that island, you want to bring 30,000 visitors to the foot of that bridge to start a foot race?
Mr. Mayor, you have been criticized over the course of your tenure as the chief executive of our city, as someone who only cares about the upper class and the tourists. Many have questioned your compassion for the residents of the outer boroughs, especially people of color and the working class. I have seen personally your generosity to charity and those in need, but you must be very careful here. You do not want to be remembered for disregarding the needs of your people after such a catastrophe. As one of your supporters, I urge you to cancel the marathon, as it will further cripple the residents of our hometown. There will be images of runners getting free food along the marathon route, much needed nourishment to finish the race, while there are hundreds of thousands of our city’s residents who are still scrambling to find their next meal. There will be thousands of police officers scattered throughout the city to control the crowd for the marathon, while they should be used in Staten Island to help look for those who are still missing. There are generators being used for the marathon that should be used in the disaster areas, so stores can re-open and food supplies can get back to normal. They say all of the generators used by the marathon could power 400 houses in Staten Island. The public is not on your side, Mr. Mayor, as they feel vulnerable to losing even more than they already have if the marathon pulls resources from the recovery efforts.
We are not ready for this stampede of runners through the city, and a simple solution would be to postpone it until our city has the capacity to stand up on our feet again. You are right when you said, “This city is a city where we have to go on,” however we do not go on until everyone can go on. We are a united city. We stand together. We leave no one behind. We are New Yorkers.
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik