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.
Aguilera, Springsteen and Bon Jovi want your help.
Christina Aguilera (a Staten Island native!) joined fellow singers Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi Friday night to help raise money to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. The “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” telethon on NBC will benefit rebuilding and relief efforts in the areas most devastated by the storm. “We are here for you. We will do whatever we can to help. We will not leave any one of you behind, because every single one of you matters,” Aguilera said. The all-star trio is urging viewers to help Red Cross efforts by texting REDCROSS to 90999 (for a $10 donation) or by going online and pledging funds.
Mayor Bloomberg says Sunday’s marathon will bring New Yorkers together—but how exactly will they get together with the subways crippled and traffic a horror show? Marathon veteran Dan Gross wonders.
New York City without the marathon would be like New Year’s Eve without Times Square or July 4th without fireworks. So to argue that Sunday’s race should be canceled or suspended this year in the wake of Hurricane Sandy may seem spiteful. And yet the marathon backlash is not surprising. The logistics of staging the event just six days after Sandy hit make it a tough sell.
Workers assemble the finish line for the New York City Marathon in Central Park, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (Richard Drew / AP Photo)
Running in the New York City Marathon is one of the most life-affirming things you can do. You set off on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as fireboats spray water and Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blares over loudspeakers. After the long, endless haul up through a packed Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, the crowd thins out to a few curious Chasids in Williamsburg. After slogging through an industrial patch of Queens, runners accelerate over the long rise of the 59th Street Bridge, eager to reach Manhattan and First Avenue’s wall of sound. A few miles north, a brief, cold turn into the Bronx, a trot down Fifth Avenue, and you start running downhill into Central Park. When I ran New York in 2006 (3:25, thanks for asking!), I never felt more alive.
Plenty of other cities stage marathons. But none quite like this one. The New York City Marathon is fueled by thousands of professionals, volunteers, medical staff, and emergency crews. New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg presides over an operation that Wal-Mart would envy: goods, people, services, and stuff flow through a crowded city with great ease.
And of course, after disruptive episodes, events like the marathon can provide a much-needed return to normalcy. Thousands of people around the world have spent a lot of time and money to train and travel for the race. Many are running for reasons that have nothing to do with personal bests and everything to do with survival—celebrating a triumph over cancer, or running in memory of loved one, or raising money for charity. For the bars and restaurants that line the route, the marathon means big business, adding up to $350 million of economic activity.
But the marathon involves a certain amount of conspicuous consumption of basics—fresh fruit, water, gasoline, and electricity—all of which are in short supply in New York and the surrounding region. Staten Island is a remarkably inauspicious place to start. In the hours before the race, thousands of people arrive in New York’s least populous borough and shed disposable clothes, jam themselves full to bursting with Gatorade and water, and then leave behind a huge mess. This year, it will all take place with people on Staten Island lacking water and electricity, with many residents suddenly homeless, and with volunteers and professionals retrieving drowned bodies.
It takes a lot of human power and energy to run those 26.2 miles. But it also requires a lot of power and energy to run the race: to fuel the cars and rescue vehicles, to power the sound systems and run the communications networks. In ordinary times, nobody would begrudge the use of fuel and mobile-generating capacity for the marathon. But these aren’t ordinary times. Hundreds of thousands of people within a stone’s throw of the race route lack power. The New York Post noted that the mobile generators used for the marathon could power 400 homes on Staten Island. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is airlifting generating equipment to the East Coast. The disparity between the spare-no-resource attitude of the marathon and the slow-motion restoration of electricity in the New York region is noticeable.
A young boy rides his bicycle on a flooded street in the New Dorp Beach neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York, November 1, 2012. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters / Landov)
Electricity restored to 65,000 customers.
The dark days are over. After almost five days with no electricity, parts of lower Manhattan had their power restored Friday afternoon around 5 p.m. According to electrical provider ConEdison, nearly 65,000 customers now have power again. Local residents posted on Twitter about celebrations in the streets. “Honking and cheering. People going bonkers,” said @caitlin_thomps. “People are cheering,” reported @somebadideas.
For ‘foreseeable future.’
New York’s most iconic lady has also been brought to her knees by a lady of similar power—Sandy. The Statue of Liberty, along with Ellis Island, is powerless after Liberty Island—where the two landmarks are located—sustained water damage. The statue itself is fine, but tourists might be kept away for some time. “Currently, the islands are closed for the foreseeable future. Until the assessment is done, we cannot determine when both islands will reopen,” a spokeswoman for the National Parks of New York Harbor said Friday. The docks and grounds are reportedly still in bad shape.
Says it still happened after 9/11.
Despite a stampede of protests claiming that it’s insensitive to those who still need the city’s help to recover from Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday defended his decision not to cancel Sunday’s New York Marathon. “If you go back to 9/11, Rudy [Giuliani] made the right decision in those days to run the marathon, and pull people together,” Bloomberg said, although the marathon was held on Nov. 5th in 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attack. Running the race, he says, will “help New York City,” especially through donations that will be raised. In the briefing, Bloomberg also said the city's death toll rose to 41, the city’s relief fund now includes $10 million in donations, and most of Manhattan should have power back by midnight.
Abandon post-storm necessities for iPad Mini.
Nevermind the lines for gas, food, public toilets, and other post-Hurricane Sandy necessities. Nearly 800 people queued up outside Manhattan’s flagship Apple Store this morning for the launch of the iPad mini. Apple had pushed back the launch time from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. so that store workers would have more time to get to work amid gridlock traffic throughout the city. That didn’t stop some New Yorkers from getting there well before the store opened its doors. Meanwhile, the subway system is still down and thousands remain without power and in need of aid.
Waives fuel tax to get gas into N.Y. Harbor.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted on Friday there is "no reason to panic" over gasoline, but he conceded that he will waive the city's tax and registration required for tankers to enter the New York harbor. Cuomo promised New Yorkers that millions of gallons of fuel would be arriving Friday. “There should be a real change in condition, and people should see it quickly,” he said. Federal authorities have also waived a law that was limiting fuel vessels allowed into the area.
Half city’s death toll in borough.
New York City is, step by step, moving toward a point of normalcy. The city announced that the Staten Island Ferry will resume service Friday at noon, launching every half hour in both directions. The borough, New York City’s least populated, was one of the hardest hit from the storm. In addition to sustaining devastating damage, 19 people from Staten Island were killed—accounting for almost half of the city’s death toll from the storm. That includes two children, ages 2 and 4, who were swept out of their mother’s arms by floodwaters and found dead Thursday yards apart from each other.
Race starts in devastated Staten Island.
New Yorkers have started a petition to cancel the New York City Marathon on Sunday, less than one week after the devastating Hurricane Sandy brought the city to its knees and with many areas still struggling with no power. The race kicks off in Staten Island, the borough that many say was hardest hit, and has felt forgotten in the recovery efforts. The New York City Marathon is one of the world's largest, and it brings in hundreds of millions of dollars for the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg insisted at a press conference on Thursday that "the city is a city and we have to go on."
Patients need to see doctors and other people they know and who know them and have been with them. Sandy’s forced hospital evacuations now leave hundreds of patients in strange rooms, blinking at strange nurses, with strange pictures on the wall.
We have now officially entered Sandy Phase Two, past the fear of drowning, the crashing trees, and the roaming packs of rats. Here comes the boring part where houses are rebuilt and power restored; where people find their way back to work and kids their way back to school.
Perhaps the most poignant story of the early days of Sandy is the image of sick infants being carried down a dozen flights of stairs in a suddenly powerless, unlit hospital. It had the same feel as the heroism of 9/11—the few risking their own skin to help out the weak. Too bad the story ended there though, because the real tale of heroism lies ahead, as these already weary, internally displaced patients adjust to their new surroundings.
In general, hospitals are in a delicate balance with the various patients they serve. Although an exact number is difficult to obtain, perhaps 100,000 or more people occupy and then re-occupy many of the hospital beds in New York City (a city of 8 million). They are, against their wishes, a cohort of chronic patients, those being treated and retreated for sometimes recalcitrant diseases such as cancer or AIDS or congestive heart failure, or else those receiving dialysis or fighting the losing battle against the progressive embarrassments of advancing age. Sure, many other people are hospitalized for a broken hip or a heart attack or a bout with pneumonia—but most then go back to their regular lives.
These veteran patients, though, are trapped in the cruel cycle of chronic illness, a two-steps-forward, one-and-a-half-steps back existence that requires unimaginable strength, optimism, and support. Their lives have become a string of hospitalizations, some good, some truly frightening. In this unwelcome role, a patient may come to rely on his one dependable anchor—a familiar place to recuperate.
Patients are taken to ambulances at Bellevue Hospital during a planned evacuation Oct. 31, 2012 in New York. Bellevuel, the oldest hospital in the country, decided to evacuate its remaining 500 patients on Wednesday after flooding inundated the basement and knocked out electricity. (STAN HONDA / Getty Images)
So far, at least five New York City hospitals have been forced to evacuate and their patients moved; region-wide, the number is higher. This is troubling—treating illness requires predictability. You need to know where you are going when you are sick. You need to see people who know you and have been with you for a while. Instead, hundreds of patients now find themselves lying in strange rooms, blinking at strange nurses, with strange pictures on the wall and a strange street view.
And strange doctors too. Remember us? The once vital, now near-obsolescent, piece of the health-care food chain? One of the last places where we have value is when you’re hospitalized. The utility of a yearly check-up has been pretty much debunked—except this overlooked advantage: having a doctor who already knows you is a major bonus if you are hospitalized. It’s a familiar face when your time in the big house comes, someone who knows you as something other than the guy in room 1420; someone who has seen you in normal clothes with normal concerns and an appointment you have to get to real soon. Not a friend really, but a friendly presence.
Hospitals are incredible, even magical, places for the very sick, but they also can be brutal in their progressive stripping away of any individual attributes or identifying features. From uniform gowns to uniform food to uniform rooms to uniform treatment teams, a patient is threatened with becoming lost in a massive, infinitely complex shuffle that no one seems capable of slowing.
Power outages and flooded roads have led to an unprecedented run on fuel. From taxis at twice the price to fist fights in line, a look at a desperate city’s scramble to gas up.
At 7:30 Thursday morning, the line at the Hess gas station on the corner of McGuiness and Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn was starting to get out of control. By two in the afternoon, the customers were queued up down the block.
A gas line on 10th Ave. in Manhattan stretches for blocks. (Justin Lane / EPA-Landov)
“People were getting in fights,” Officer Steve Truglio told The Daily Beast, as about 15 of his fellow officers directed traffic and turned away those attempting to cut the line. Asked why the pumps were operating so slowly, Truglio said the gas was running out.
This particular station was one of the last in Brooklyn, and in the city as a whole, to run out of gasoline—just another one of Hurricane Sandy’s serious side effects. “In New York City, over 50 percent of service stations are not able to sell gasoline, and it could be up to 75 percent,” Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops, told NBC News Thursday.
By 9 o'clock Wednesday night, the Sunoco on the corner of Grand Avenue and Atlantic near Prospect Heights was already dry. The next morning cashier Alan Marwan said he was told not to expect a refill until at least Saturday.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Marwan, who’s worked at the station for two years. “People came from all over on Wednesday to get gas before it ran out. I don’t know how they knew.”
Word had quickly spread about the shortage and by Wednesday afternoon, Marwan said cars were pouring out of the parking lot, one line going down Grand Avenue, the other going down Atlantic. “People were cutting in line, yelling at each other, running up to me with money while their cars were still in the street,” he said, predicting the madness will start back up again as soon as he gets more gas. And when that happens, Marwan expects the police to be on hand to help.
Marwan made sure to fill up his own car before the station’s well ran dry. “I have a Honda Civic,” he said proudly. “It will last for 10 days.”
Mayor Bloomberg is pushing the race even as storm-stricken residents struggle with basics like electricity and water. Critics are asking: is this too much of a stretch right now?
Tens of thousands of runners are set to begin the 43rd annual ING New York City Marathon at Fort Wadsworth at the mouth of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island early Sunday morning. But local politicians, New Yorkers—especially Staten Islanders, some of whom who’ve had their homes and businesses destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and many who have been without electricity and water for days—and even diehard marathoners don’t want them there.
Water continues to flood a neighborhood on November 1, 2012 in the Ocean Breeze area of the Staten Island borough of New York City. (John Moore / Getty images)
“My God!” exclaimed Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro in a press conference on Wednesday. “What we have here is terrible, a disaster. If they want to race, let them race with themselves. This is no time for a parade. A marathon is a parade.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg triumphantly announced Wednesday that the marathon would go ahead as scheduled Nov. 4, six days after Hurricane Sandy tore the metropolitan area to shreds, killing 38 in the city alone, ruining homes and businesses in low-lying areas and cutting out power for millions.
“It’s a great event for New York,” Bloomberg said during a press conference. “And I think for those who were lost, you know, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.”
The New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, tried to curb the backlash Thursday by introducing a program called The Race to Recover, with an initial $1 million donation.
Bloomberg also tried to calm angry New Yorkers at a news briefing Thursday, announcing that an “enormous amount of police” would be available at the marathon, since the power was expected back on in downtown Manhattan by Saturday.
Two of the marathon’s events, the Opening Ceremony and 5K Dash to the Finish Line, were canceled. Road Runners’ leadership wasn’t able to comment for this article.
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.