UPDATE: Everyone's come to their senses and the New York City Marathon has been canceled. Faced with public outrage, officials reconsidered and decided to call off the marathon late Friday afternoon as NBC first reported.
The photograph that dominates the Friday issue of the New York Times shows a tense, crowded scene at a Brooklyn gas station. "Millions Stuck in Dark, Cold," reads the bold-faced headline page one of the Wall Street Journal.
Hurricane Sandy left death and destruction in its wake after landfall on Monday evening in New Jersey and New York, but that's not going to stop the ING New York City Marathon that's scheduled for Sunday.
On Wednesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the race, which brings around 40,000 runners to the city each year, would go on — downed trees, flooded streets, incapacitated transit systems and all.
"This year's marathon is dedicated to the City of New York, the victims of the hurricane, and their families," the marathon's website claims.
The course winds 26.2 miles through New York, starting in the tragedy-stricken Staten Island, passing up through Brooklyn and Queens before jogging into Manhattan proper, up First Avenue to the Bronx and back down Fifth Avenue to a finish in Central Park — where officials estimate that "approximately 250 mature trees are uprooted and compromised," with expectations of higher counts as clean-up continues.
"This year's marathon is dedicated to the City of New York, the victims of the hurricane, and their families," reads the marathon's website, a gesture that seems misguided given that many of them are still reeling from the storm's aftermath, some with friends and relatives still unaccounted for, homeless or living without electricity, facing a forecast of near-freezing temperatures.
Meanwhile, two generators (and a backup unit) are set up in Central Park, growling 24 hours a day just to power a media tent for Sunday's race. The New York Post ironically notes that the "three diesel-power generators crank out 800 kilowatts — enough to power 400 homes in ravaged areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways and downtown Manhattan."
That's not to mention the hundreds of race volunteers, the cases of water and the trucks full of food for runners that could arguably be diverted to residents left without after the superstorm.
On the other hand, officials and some New Yorkers seem to think that the race will reinstate a sense of normalcy in the city, plus the New York Road Runners — the race organizer — has pledged to donate at least $1 million to the Marathon Race to Recover Fund to support relief efforts.
But is it prudent for the race to go on? Is it callous?