Several days after the NYC Marathon was finally cancelled, generators, heaters, food and water were still sitting unused in Central Park, despite the New York Road Runner's Club promise that "many of the race’s assets, including blankets, food, port-o-johns, and generators, will be diverted to [Hurricane Sandy] relief efforts." The highly-publicized sight of surplus supplies going to waste while thousands of New Yorkers went without basic necessities was what got the Marathon cancelled in the first place, so it was surprising that the Mayor's office or the NYRR Club didn't move swiftly to do damage control in that high-profile spot. That task finally fell to Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, whose job description apparently includes "gofer."
Wolfson personally drove to the marathon staging area last night and gathered up the supplies, including Gatorade, water and canned goods donated by runners. He then transported them himself to a grateful family on Staten Island, and posed for a photo that ended up in the NY Post. The generators, unfortunately, were gone by the time Wolfson got the park, having finally been retrieved by the companies that rented them to the Marathon organizers. The owner of one of the generator companies, SBP Industries, told the tabloid, "I could rent every one of those generators five times over right now. People are dying for those generators." Nice work if you can get it!
Meanwhile, the Times has an interesting look behind the scenes of the chaotic process that led to the Marathon's cancellation. According to the Times, Mary Wittenberg, the chief executive of New York Road Runners, had scrambled to hold an alternative race, and was considering options such as holding the entire run in Central Park. But up until he finally caved, Mayor Bloomerg was adamant that the show must go on, despite top advisors and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recommending cancelling it:
The discussions went on all day in the mayor’s City Hall bullpen, and included Wolfson and Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris. The topic also came up Friday in south Brooklyn, where Bloomberg met with residents whose homes had been destroyed or damaged. Besides discussing insurance claims and rebuilding, some residents asked the mayor why the marathon was still going to be held, aides said.
But persuading the mayor to change his mind was difficult. Aides and friends said Bloomberg was not one to wallow, and he saw value in urging residents to move past the storm. “It goes back to his earliest days in office,” said one person familiar with the mayor’s thinking. “He is an engineer, not a political science student.”
Without a good alternative, however, Wolfson and Wittenberg decided it would be best for her to speak to Bloomberg. The mayor was unhappy to back down, but said that if the race had to be canceled it needed to be done immediately, according to people briefed on the discussions.
And so, hours after adamantly declaring that the Marathon would proceed, the Mayor issued a statement announcing its cancellation, thus "disenfranchising" tens of thousands of disappointed runners. But it wasn't until the following day that the Road Runner's Club revealed the true cause of the cancellation: the media.