A Coney Island police house is inundated with water, forcing New York’s finest to improvise a daring escape.
As Sandy rolled toward Coney Island, whipping sand and debris across the famous boardwalk, officers at the NYPD’s 60th Precinct prepared to evacuate. As NYPD steamfitters Kevin Hunter and Anthony DiMaggio hurried to a subterranean boiler room to shut down the station’s heat valves, a burst of water—a “five-foot wave,” one cop said—smashed into the station, consuming the basement and knocking down one of the boiler room’s walls. Hunter’s leg was caught in the boiler’s machinery and completely submerged under water, and he was unable to get free.
Robert Stolarik / The New York Times-Redux
DiMaggio screamed for help, and Lt. Peter O’Neill and his fellow officers rushed to the flooded room, which was already under eight feet of water—with it rising fast. “It was like a waterfall,” O’Neill, a 15-year veteran, recounted. “I’ve been in plenty of hairy situations, but this was probably the scariest thing I have experienced on the force.” The officers of the 60th Precinct sprinted down the stairs and, with a collective pull, yanked Hunter to safety.
With Hunter, the officers still had to evacuate personnel from the flooding station. “I’m six feet tall,” O’Neill says, “and the water outside the precinct was up to my neck.” The taller cops walked, the shorter ones swam, to higher ground, where EMT-trained officers were loading injured evacuees onto buses to deliver them to a nearby hospital.
Not all of New York’s finest were so lucky. Artur Kasprzak, an NYPD officer attached to the 1st Precinct in lower Manhattan, was in his Staten Island home when Sandy struck. As floodwaters rushed into the house, Kasprzak hustled seven family members, including his 15-month-old son, out of the basement and into the attic. But Kasprzak, for reasons unknown, then returned to the basement and was consumed by floodwaters. When police scuba teams arrived, a downed power line hindered their search. Kasprzak, who served for six years on the force, was found dead the following morning.
In neighborhoods across New York City, buildings crumbled and fires broke out—and the sirens kept wailing.
The Big Apple started preparing in earnest Sunday, with officials preemptively shutting down the city’s famous public transit system and warning residents to be ready for the worst. Unable to nail boards across the windows of their high-rise buildings, New Yorkers instead filled their bathtubs with water, changed batteries in their flashlights, and, in some cases, stocked up on booze.
Andrew Burton / Getty Images
By late-day Monday, the whimsy had turned to urgency. Unlike last year’s similarly feared, but ultimately feeble, Hurricane Irene, Sandy lived up to its hype. As the storm barreled in, New York firefighters fired up a saw in an attempt to remove a door in the East Village. On the west side, meanwhile, the brick façade of a building crumbled in a pile of rubble on a city sidewalk, leaving interior bedrooms exposed like some kind of life-size urban dollhouse. And on East 14th Street, a Con Edison plant exploded in an electrical fire that shot giant halos of light into the skies above Brooklyn. By Tuesday morning the storm had rolled on, but a quarter of a million homes and businesses were in the dark. In many cases, they were left without water as well. And it would be several long days before even traffic lights blinked red, yellow, and green again.
In a hospital without power, nurses raced to evacuate 19 newborns just barely clinging to life.
It was any NICU nurse’s nightmare. A hurricane, a flooded basement, a failed generator: then, terrifyingly, 19 critically ill infants in a hospital without power. In one humbling image of the evacuation at New York University’s Langone Medical Center—now ubiquitous—a team of medical professionals rushes a yellow stretcher with a nurse and small baby into an ambulance. Amid the unimaginable panic surrounding her, Margot Condon—holding him—is a picture of calm.
“Peaceful.” That is how Condon, a 36-year veteran of the neonatal intensive-care unit at NYU, remembers feeling.
As Hurricane Sandy barreled into New York City, sending gallons of water into the basement of Langone, the generators failed and with it, the power. When news of an impending evacuation spread, Condon and her team of nurses in the NICU banded together. “We just did what we always do—what nurses do—we took care of the babies. We kept them safe.”
Medical students from across the city rushed in with flashlights to illuminate the darkness. Condon says that the feeling of purpose, that they were doing something bigger than themselves, was tangible. “Everyone was just focused on keeping the babies safe, on getting them out in a calm manner—the positive intention, it was so strong,” she says. “It just… carried us.”
All sense of time disappeared as the nurses readied the tiny infants for another premature arrival—this time into the wind and spitting rain of the outside world. A tap on the shoulder, “We’re ready to move, Margot… It’s time to go,” and there was no turning back. Save for volunteers’ flashlights, the stairwell was dark. Six doctors and nurses juggled the infant boy’s life-sustaining equipment (breathing tube, feeding tube, central line, IV, and heart monitor). “He couldn’t breathe for himself. We had to breathe for him,” Condon explains. “On one level I was probably scared, but I wasn’t feeling it,” she said. “It was a beautiful thing—everyone helping each other. I was calm.” “Stay calm, hold the baby close, watch the stats, make sure the breathing tube is in, watch IV line,” she whispered to herself during her descent down nine dark flights holding the two-pound baby boy—too new for a name—born only eight hours earlier. “It became a mantra that I repeated over and over,” she says. “One step at a time… One step at a time.”
After accompanying the baby boy to Mount Sinai Hospital, Condon went home to a powerless apartment, a proud husband, and a glass of Scotch. At 6 a.m. I ask? “Absolutely,” she replies.
A building in lower Manhattan—one of the world’s most important internet hubs—kept running, thanks to a small group of specialists.
While most of lower Manhattan was without power, one key building remained lighted: 60 Hudson Street, one of the most important Internet hubs worldwide. Even during the worst of the storm, the building kept the country connected through an array of well-maintained generators.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP-Getty Images
If you’ve ever sent an email, your data has probably traveled through a fiber-optic cable here. Built around 1929, the building served as the hub for Western Union’s telegraph network and is now known as one of the fastest connections between world financial centers; it maintains Internet connectivity for entire regions of the country.
Property manager Shaun Mooney, former Marine and volunteer firefighter, describes this job as “Mission Critical”—“the lights have to stay on no matter what.” Preparation for Sandy started the week before the storm, with staff meetings devoted to assessing supplies and personnel needs. When power in lower Manhattan went out on Monday evening, chief engineer Ernesto Martinez’s team monitored generators and pressure sensors. To make sure windows didn’t blow out, his team opened select airway channels throughout the building to equalize pressure.
The group slept in cots and sleeping bags “in just about every uncomfortable place we could,” Martinez said with a laugh. “It decreases sleep time,” he added. He arrived Sunday and didn’t leave until Wednesday evening.
During the crisis, one of the building’s main concerns was fuel. With much of the Northeast dealing with fuel shortages, 60 Hudson turned to the Department of Homeland Security for help making sure they never ran out. The key to keeping a building as important as this one up and running, Mooney says, is breaking down the job into small components you can focus on. “And all of a sudden you have a major impact,” he said.
As the storm surge rose, an army of health aides jumped barriers and waded through water to get to their housebound patients.
The real test of the army of caregivers for tens of thousands of seniors trapped at home when Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast began the day after the storm ended. Eloise Goldberg, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York supervisor for the Bronx and half of Long Island, stepped out of her home about 50 miles east of New York City on Tuesday morning, jumped into her car (her husband’s was crushed beneath an oak tree), and began to figure out how to get 11,000 home health aides and 3,500 clinicians to their patients. “We had been preparing our field staff for several days so they would have cellphone connections with their patients, but now we were up against massive flooding and blackouts and fires.”
Andrew Lichtenstein / FCDA
On the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, where the Atlantic had cut through to join Jamaica Bay, nurses had begun to call Goldberg’s cell during the height of the storm on Monday. One nurse said she was wading in to reach trapped patients. She walked seven blocks through knee-high water to get to a group home and found medicines had been washed away. She would get prescriptions refilled and return, she promised. But by afternoon, downed wires sparked fires that eventually consumed 60 houses. By nightfall, more than 100 homes were destroyed. Many patients who had refused to evacuate were desperate to escape floodwaters that were climbing past the first floors. Each nurse on Goldberg’s Long Island team was reporting that they couldn’t find several patients. “The majority of our patients have been very calm through the hurricane,” Goldberg told me on Wednesday. “But if this continues—the blackouts, the lost power for communication, no water supply—I anticipate a very different reaction.”
“I’m providing essential emergency services,” she told police. She walked up 12 flights to administer the medicine and calm the patient, who, like tens of thousands of others, was sitting in the dark with no TV, no water or gas service, and (aside from a dying cellphone) completely cut off from the outside world.
With one half of the 1.1 million people on Long Island still without power as of Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the Long Island Power Authority, which at first vowed to restore service to 90 percent of its customers by Wednesday. Messina’s advice to distant families with loved ones in this situation is to call a home-care company to get a live-in aide for a week or two, until essential services are restored.
A Coast Guard rescue swimmer dove into house-sized waves to save crew members from the sinking HMS Bounty.
U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer Randy Haba didn’t know it yet, but he was about to become the first of the first responders.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski
When Haba fell asleep on Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Elizabeth, N.C., air station, Hurricane Sandy was still hundreds of miles out to sea. Landfall was still 24 hours away. And the storm wasn’t expected to make its savage westward turn until at least Maryland or Delaware.
But then, around 3 a.m. Monday, an alarm sounded on base. A metallic voice crackled over the speaker: there is a boat off the coast that’s taking on water, it said, and there are 16 people on board. The HMS Bounty, a replica 18th-century merchant vessel, had tried, for some reason, to sail around Sandy. The plan had failed. Now the waterlogged Bounty was sinking 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, in the teeth of a once-in-a-century superstorm.
“I woke up right away,” Haba tells Newsweek. “I knew it was going to be good because ... well, because it was a hurricane.” He laughs softly, to himself. “You don’t get those very often. Most people are smart enough to stay away. Smart enough not to go out on the water.”
He rushed to the op center, assessed the conditions, and secured the proper equipment. Then, in the darkness before dawn, Haba, a pair of pilots, and a flight mechanic piled into an MH-60T helicopter and took off for the open ocean. They were flying blind, relying on their instruments to steer them through the storm.
Their first mission was to find a man who was floating somewhere out in the darkness, alone, after falling off one of the Bounty’s two life rafts. They strapped on their night-vision goggles and scanned the horizon. Finally they spotted his strobe light. He was already half a mile away.
“I’d been out in tropical storms and hurricanes before,” Haba said. “But these were the biggest waves I’ve ever been in. Good 30-foot seas I had to swim through. Just like a house coming at you each time.”
But burglaries up.
Is this that silver lining? New statistics out Saturday show a significant drop in city-wide crime after Hurricane Sandy hit early this week. Murder, rape, robbery, assault, grand larceny, and car thefts all dropped by double-digit percentages. Murder was down by 86 percent following the storm, and the crime total is down 31 percent. Unfortunately robberies did increase by 3 percent. The NYPD was in full force across the city in the early days after the storm, directing traffic and patrolling darkened neighborhoods.
Government asks public to be patient.
Sandy may be over, but her damage sure isn't. Gas-station shortages may take several days to be fully resolved, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a briefing Saturday. The announcement comes after what has already been days of long lines and shortages at gas stations across the tristate area, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Defense would begin opening fuel stations in New York City and on Long Island. Bloomberg attempted to assuage anger over the extended power outages by shifting blame to the Long Island Power Authority. “[LIPA] has not acted aggressively enough to restore power,” he said.
Occupy Wall Street found a new purpose after the hurricane: bringing relief to those stuck without power. Caitlin Dickson reports.
Four days after Hurricane Sandy swept power and water from millions in New York and New Jersey, the streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown and Lower East Side were still quiet and dark. A few resilient vendors sat in front of darkened bodegas, selling prayer candles and batteries, as restless residents meandered. But the corner of Hester and Essex Street was bustling. And a crowd of people wearing blue strips of painter’s tape with the word “Volunteer” scribbled in permanent marker had set up shop as Occupy Sandy.
Morgan Lee, 22, of Corona hands a bag of food and water to another volunteer on Friday in preparation for distribution to the residents of New York's Lower East Side who remain without power due to superstorm Sandy. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)
In the wake of the hurricane, Occupy Wall Street, which had been relatively quiet in recent months, had found a new cause to take on. On Tuesday morning, after the storm had subsided but New York City was still drying out, Michael Premo, whose relief efforts date back to Hurricane Katrina, and three of his friends from Occupy Wall Street headed to the Red Hook Initiative—a center where he’d worked in the past—to assess the situation. The outlook was grim. Premo said a worried volunteer told him: “We have no lights. We have no food. We’re in a situation here.” Premo said he told the volunteer: “You have a kitchen here. We will bring you resources and food.” That was the first community-based “hub,” as Premo refers to them. After posting a note on “Inner Occupy,” an online forum for those involved in the 99 percent movement, and blasting an email to friends, Occupy Sandy was born. Four days later, 13 centers had sprouted in destroyed communities from Rockaway Beach to Coney Island.
Talia Billig protested with Occupy Wall Street last fall. So when she was looking for an organization through which she could volunteer to help relieve those suffering after Sandy, she wasn’t surprised to find that the group making an effort in her own neighborhood was an OWS offshoot. “I live in Chinatown, and this is the sort of neighborhood that—for whatever reasons—wouldn’t get an organized citywide effort and that’s what Occupy is about,” Billig said. “It’s about common people helping common people.”
Even though Billig’s own apartment on Canal and Orchard Streets had also been without power all week, she left the comfort of her friends in Brooklyn to return home and help her neighbors in need. “I’ve lived here for six years, and it really is a neighborhood. It’s one of the last neighborhoods in Manhattan, and I’m really happy to be able to help in any way I can.”
In front of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) Center at 46 Hester Street, Billig met three other people, among the throngs of eager volunteers, who had both come from down the street and across the bridge to help their fellow New Yorkers. She teamed up with Ariel Bardi, who came from Park Slope after spending two days at Occupy Sandy’s relief headquarters in Red Hook; Stephen Cash, a long-time Lower East Sider; and Christina Reilly, a filmmaker who used to live in the Lower East Side and walked across the Williamsburg Bridge to her former neighborhood as soon as she’d heard about the relief movement. The four former strangers headed down the street hauling bags filled with water, food, candles, batteries, and other supplies.
“It’s overwhelming to see how incredibly organized and mobile everyone can be so quickly,” said Reilly. “Not that it’s surprising. It’s an island full of type As, so you know shit will get done.”
Reilly also noted the ease that Occupy Sandy—once organized—was not only able to rally more than enough supplies but also had people to deliver it. Outside of the powerless enclave below 39th Street, the life in the city seemed to be carrying on as if nothing had happened.
Researchers have long known the MTA was vulnerable to a big storm. As the climate changes, devastating storms like Sandy will become more frequent.
The floodwaters of Sandy highlighted the vulnerability of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which oversees New York's subway, the Long Island Railroad, and Metro North, to a sizable storm surge and rising ocean levels. But the potential impact of such storms have been discussed for nearly a decade, and came into sharper focus in 2011 following Hurricane Irene. And New York isn't the only region whose public transit infrastructure is vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather. In 2011, the Federal Transit Administration released a report, Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate-Change Adaptation, which detailed the risk climate change posed to public-transit systems all over the country, and especially in New York City.
An unidentified Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee prepares hoses to pump 43 million gallons of water out of each of the tubes of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel in New York on October 31. (Patrick Cashin, MTA / Reuters / Landov)
The report says that, given unavoidable warming due to greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere, transit infrastructure will have to adapt to changed weather, no matter what actions are taken to reduce emissions. And it has turned out to be remarkably prescient.
Given the reality of global warming, the report says, The most disruptive near-term impact is likely to be intense rainfall that floods subway tunnels and low-lying facilities, bus lots, and rights of way. That accurately describes the state of New York's crippled public-transit system, with reduced subway and train service leading to massive traffic jams and gas shortages.
New York City's MTA is used as one of the case studies in the report. And in fact, the MTA has been thinking seriously about how to adapt to climate change to make the system more resilient at least since 2008. That year it published a report, the first of its kind, titled MTA Adaptations to Climate Change: A Categorical Imperative. This was prompted both by the overwhelming evidence linking climate change to rising sea levels as well as recent experience. In August 2007, New York City was hit with three-and-a-half inches of rain in two hours. When the MTA's pumps couldn't prevent water from reaching the electrified third rail, the disruption affected over 2 million subway riders and shut down a substantial portion of the subway system.
The MTA and FTA's findings are a sobering reminder that the transit disruption caused by Sandy could well become a regular occurrence. The MTA, in association with Columbia University researchers, found that a 100-year storm meaning a category 1 to 3 hurricane hitting near or around New York City with a two-to-four-foot rise in the sea level would mean devastation for the subways. The MTA also looked at just the 100-year storm and a 10-year storm combined with the sea-level rise and found the results about equivalent.
Without sea-level rise, a 100-year flood would inundate portions of the subway system, the report found. But with the sea-level rise, a 10-year storm could have the same effect. This means that, if sea levels continue to rise, New York City could see Sandy-like effects on its public-transit system every 10 years. And if a Sandyesque storm hits with higher seas, the tunnels under the East River and the Harlem River could be totally inundated in just 40 minutes.
When the FTA report was released in 2011, Therese McMillan, the deputy administrator of the agency, told a reporter: "The patterns are pretty indisputable. The 100-year floods are occurring every 10 to 20 years. The hurricane intensities are repeating themselves and being very common. The extreme winter effects that we're seeing in the Northeast are clearly in evidence."
Aid organizations are finding multiple ways to draw in donations in the wake of the massive storm--even as some struggle to dig out of the destruction themselves. Jesse Wegman reports.
Unplugged residents in the still-powerless parts of lower Manhattan may not know it yet, but charities around the country are reeling in donations to help them, along with the millions of others up and down the East Coast who are suffering the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy.
On Friday, the Red Cross announced it has received $35 million so far in donations intended for Sandy's victim's through a variety of channels, including online contributions, text messages ($10 per text), and a prominent button on the iTunes Store homepage.
More donations were expected to roll in following a hastily arranged benefit concert for Sandy's victims, featuring Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Sting, and Christina Aguilera, and broadcast Friday evening on NBC.
The new numbers were a big jump for the aid organization, which on Wednesday said it had already raised $11 million.
"I think the word is certainly getting out," said Karen Stecher, a spokesperson for the Red Cross. "As people see the images on television, on our website, on social media, they're being motivated to step up and help."
(Click here for more information on how to help Hurricane Sandy victims.)
The need for immediate financial resources is still urgent: Nearly 6,800 people spent Thursday night in 97 Red Cross shelters across nine states, and the organization has served more than 215,000 meals so far, according to Stecher. Aid workers are distributing 60 trailers of relief supplies, including personal-hygiene items, clean-up kits, rakes, shovels, tarps, dust masks, and work gloves.
Other relief agencies have also seen spikes in donations since Monday's storm. As of Friday afternoon, the Salvation Army had received slightly less than $2 million in Sandy-related donations, including $1.77 million online, $45,820 through text donations (like the Red Cross, $10 per text), and $122,000 through its 800 number.
In New Jersey, the Salvation Army has provided more than 32,000 meals, 27,000 snacks, and 27,000 bottles of water.
Some organizations are finding that the donation rate has picked up particularly in the past 24 hours. "It's accelerating as people are grasping the extent of the damage and the emotional turmoil in many communities," said Leslie Gianelli, spokesperson for AmeriCares, which is based in Stamford, Conn. "Now that the stories of people are being communicated, it's almost becoming a Katrina-type reaction in the last 24 hours."
AmeriCares had taken in $850,000 by Friday afternoon, Gianelli said. "People are getting past the shock and people are taking a closer look at what's happening here."
Meanwhile, some agencies in New York were trying to raise funds while at the same time digging themselves out of the damage wrought by Sandy.
The United Way of New York City, which on Thursday announced a regional fund to assist the hardest-hit communities, was still operating without power on Friday afternoon. Its Midtown Manhattan offices sit less than two blocks from the blackout line.
"We set up camp at one of our board member's offices, but it's been quite a challenge," said UWNYC President and CEO Sheena Wright.
Wright said UWNYC, which raised more than half a billion dollars for the September 11th Fund in the years after the terrorist attacks, was focused on providing assistance over the long term, particularly for the low-income families that the United Way assists on a regular basis.
"If you haven't been to work in a week, you're most likely not getting paid, because you have a low-wage job," Wright said. "If your kids are not in school since Monday and you depend on that free breakfast or free lunch, you're in a lot of trouble right now."
Wright said donors—including corporate partners such as Starbucks, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America—had committed close to $1 million to the new fund as of Friday afternoon.
World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, had raised $290,000 as of Thursday, but had to contend with a flooded warehouse in the Bronx, which destroyed one third of all its relief supplies. World Vision provides kits of food, hygiene products, and flood-cleanup products, as well as blankets and tarps to those in regions, such as the Appalachias, where Sandy combined with other storms to dump several feet of snow earlier in the week.
There was also concern that in the wake of Sandy's destruction in the United States, the damage wrought by the storm outside the U.S. could be overlooked.
Before it clobbered the Eastern seaboard, Sandy swept through Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba, killing scores and leaving thousands more homeless and at risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera. In Haiti, still recovering from the catastrophic earthquake that struck in January 2010, 52 people were confirmed killed by the storm while flooding left 18,000 people homeless.
International Medical Corps, which is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and raises money for disaster relief around the world, has seen only a "fraction" of the donations that the U.S.-focused groups receive, according to Margaret Aguirre, a spokesperson for IMC.
"People understand disasters that hit their lives directly, and there's nothing wrong with that," Aguirre said. "That's the way the world works; we feel for those in our own communities."
Still, Aguirre hoped that the outpouring of sympathy in the wake of the storm would ultimately translate into a greater awareness of the plight of all the storm's victims. "I look at what's happening in New York and I think, that doesn't look much unlike flooding I've seen in other countries, in south Sudan, in Haiti. But it's about what resources do you have to address the issues."
"Haiti doesn't have the infrastructure that the U.S. has, so when roads are shut down or when roads are flooded, there are more resources in the U.S. to deal with those issues. It's not like someone can go check into a hotel, or easily have someone bring them food from somewhere else," Aguirre said.
On tankers to storm-ravaged areas.
The U.S. Defense Department announced Friday that it will send 24 million gallons of fuel on tankers to storm-ravaged areas of New York and New Jersey. While many officials have insisted there is "no reason to panic" over a fuel shortage, less than 40 percent of the areas gas stations are operating at full capacity and frustration over the gas shortage has caused long lines at pumps in the affected areas, with lines stretching for miles in some areas. On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered a gas-rationing system until further notice. In New Jersey, Christie told residents to go south to look for gas, saying that while only 25 percent of stations north of Interstate 195 are operating, 90 percent of those south of the highway are in service.
Mayor Bloomberg speaks Spanish, a bizarre horse/man runs in Washington, and a crippled crane dangles over New York. Plus more of the buzziest videos from this week’s storm.
The Calm Before the Storm
Here it comes. Watch a time-lapse of Manhattan’s Sunday afternoon skyline as the city braces itself for Hurricane Sandy.
El Bloombito Speaks Spanish Again
Or at least tries to: Mayor Bloomberg—or shall we say el alcalde de Nueva York—poked fun at his less-than-stellar accent with another attempt at the language.
‘Hurricane Horse’ Gallops On
Yes, it’s been a bad week for the Big Apple—all the more reason that people need symbols of hope and resilience. Also, fears of the race draining precious resources are misplaced, writes Jay Michaelson.
It was inevitable that there would be a backlash against the New York Marathon going ahead as planned this weekend. This is New York, after all, and whatever decision was made—go for it, cancel, or postpone—you knew some people would object, and object loudly. Especially if, like the New York Post or a borough president, they can score demagogue points by doing so.
But to see New York cave to the voices of fear, rather than of reason, is unprecedented, shameful, and wrongheaded. It’s an object lesson how well-meaning activists can undermine causes they seek to promote.
First, let’s be clear: superstorm Sandy is the most devastating thing to happen to New York City since Sept. 11. My city is crippled, thousands are without power, and now thousands more are struggling to get food, gas, and basic necessities. We are hearing stories of elderly people trapped in the upper floors of high-rises, and of people whose lives—particularly on Staten Island—have been destroyed. There have also been inspiring stories of personal generosity and governmental can-do.
The question, then, is whether the marathon would have helped, hurt, or been irrelevant to these efforts.
A lot of loud, noisy, uninformed people won the day by shouting “hurt.” Won’t the marathon divert resources better spent on emergency supplies, food, and shelter, they asked. Shouldn’t cops be delivering essential services, rather than guarding a racecourse, they said.
Actually, no. There was never any data showing any diversion of resources. The city had already hired additional police—paid for out of the marathon’s proceeds—and Mayor Bloomberg has insisted that the net effect on relief work would have been zero. The real front lines in the relief effort are Con Edison, the Red Cross, and governmental emergency services—none of them have anything to do with the marathon. In other words, this is not a zero-sum game; it’s just not the case that cops will either be at food distribution centers or guarding the marathon.
Workers assemble the finish line for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1, 2012, in New York’s Central Park. (Richard Drew / AP Photo)
And the marathon normally provides a massive economic boost, bringing $340 million in economic activity to the city. Even discounting that for lower attendance this year, it’s a huge net win for New York. Since municipal resources are severely stretched because of Sandy, the last thing the city should do is reduce its revenue streams.
Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to help with disaster recovery, did their part to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan last week. Team member Curtis Coleman, a former Marine, shares his thoughts on heroic leadership.
As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the northeast, see some of the most hilarious wind-blown reports.