Help for Sandy Victims or a Footrace? Tough choice!

I get the argument. Some are saying the New York marathon should continue because it’s a display of the city’s indomitable spirit, “nothing can bring us down, yadda, yadda” — and I’m not saying that message is a bad one, per se.

But we have children being buried, and lots of people in need of everything — clothing, shelter, food, fuel, consolation. In this case, I think one needs to weigh the need for food, generators and first responder resources and ask whether any of them should justly be re-directed away from people in crisis, for the sake of a footrace.

I mean, New York is no city of wimps, but still, the cognitive dissonance is astounding. Per Glenn Reynolds:

Power to the one-percent!

“As hundreds of thousands of Big Apple residents suffer in homes left without power by Hurricane Sandy, two massive generators are being run 24/7 in Central Park — to juice a media tent for Sunday’s New York City Marathon. And a third ‘backup’ unit sits idle, in case one of the generators fails. The three diesel-powered generators crank out 800 kilowatts — enough to power 400 homes in ravaged areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways and downtown Manhattan.”

Nobody loves New York or believes in its spirit, than Rudy Giuliani, and I can’t help thinking that if he were in charge right now, nothing would be preferred to getting the city and its people what is needed. If I were Mayor Bloomberg, I’d say postpone the race. And others are saying he should see to the needs of his citizens first, yes, even the lower-income folks in Coney Island whose small businesses are being looted, and even the conservative-leaning ones in Staten Island who are seemingly being ignored as they call for help.

Speaking of help for Sandy victims in New York and New Jersey, I donated last night to Catholic Charities, who do a great job of bringing help to people in crisis. If you can spare a few dollars, they’re my recommended go-to. If you don’t like giving through a religious agency, give to Team Rubicon — a gang of doctors, vets and first responders who formed after the Haiti earthquake and do astounding work.

Read a recent story about Team Rubicon, here

Interesting question for next Tuesday: How exactly are the folks in Staten Island going to be able to vote? Will military trucks be used as polling places, as they’re saying in New Jersey? And how do you like that story about non-union crews being turned away from helping in New Jersey? We need new leadership everywhere, and then we need to reassess the value of unions.

UPDATE: “Marathon Mike”, the New York Times and Toilets. Perfect together.

UPDATE II: A few people have sent this to me saying it left them weeping. yes it’s powerful.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • thereserita

    It’s all about keeping up appearances. I.e., Scripting beats substance every time. As a nurse, I’ve seen this change from our hospital administration too over the last few yrs.

  • vox borealis

    Well, as long as New Yorkers are protected from the real scourge of drinking big sodas, minor problems like this will work themselves out, no?

  • Adam

    Devil’s advocate here. Isn’t this similar to the criticism the Catholic Church usually gets? “Why does the Church own all that expensive art and real estate when the money could go to the poor?” We usually respond with the story about Christ and the bottle of perfume.

    I don’t think the criticism in this case is invalid–it certainly smacks of poor appearances–but I’d like to know if the rescue efforts and the marathon are entirely mutually exclusive. If so, how do we distinguish this from arguments used against the Church’s wealth?

    [The church has no "wealth" the great works of art it holds as trustee for all of us, and isn't that better than, say, the Pieta disappearing in private collections? And I'm sorry, but I never hear anyone make a "expensive perfume" argument when it comes to the church aiding the poor. The Catholic church does more than any institution to assist the poor, always has, always will, in every part of the world. Your passive-aggressive concern trolling isn't hiding your bigotry. And you know, today I'm just in no mood to entertain it.-admin]

  • Mandy P.

    Well. For one thing the church’s “wealth” isn’t in assets that are readily sold or liquidated. Further, most of our assets are in priceless art or buildings (cathedrals, chapels, etc and so on) that are also national treasures across many nations and the Church is the one organization that has kept them up over the last two milennia. And many of those nations may not take too kindly to the Church selling those priceless treasures of history to the highest bidder. There’s alsothe fact that even without selling off all our assets the Church is STILL the most generous organization and manages to more efficiently aid folks in need than any other groupnon the planet. So comparing that to what’s going on in NY and Jersey isn’t just apples and oranges, it’s more like comparing apples and moon rocks.

    As far as the Sandy aftermath goes, redirecting supplies, generators, and even emergency personnel (like police and such) to this marathon when they are still finding bodies floating in the flood waters is disgusting. The resources they need are right there, they’re just choosing to use them for something other than helping those in need. Further, the marathon route runs through neighborhoods where people have spent the better part of the last week without power and are still sitting in the dark. The runner will actually be running right past those who are suffering. It’s not just a matter of bad optics, it’s cruel and a gross misuse of those sorely needed resources.

    Yes, life must go on. But how about we at least wait until bodies are found and buried and people aren’t suffering without power, food, water, and shelter en masse? Is that really too much to ask?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Mandy, apparently it is too much to ask for the people running New York.

    If I were a runner, signed up for this Marathon, I would simply drop out, and refuse to participate, rather than race through a natural disaster site, where people are still struggling, and mourning their dead.

    A Marathon is a fine thing—I speak as the wife of a marathon runner; but it’s not comparable either to priceless works of art and history, (such as you find in the Vatican), or to human life, and welfare. The marathon should be postponed, or cancelled altogether.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And Adam, given my own experience with marthons—running a race consisting of thousands of people, with the accompanying stands providing water, fruit, first aid (not to mention all the fire trucks, and ambulances that will be rushing to the aid of those runners who, inevitably, collapse, or pull a muscle); closing off streets to traffic, so the runners can get through, setting up the starting line and finish line. . . trying to do this in a city that’s suffered severe damage from a storm, and where power, food, shelter are problems for some—yeah, this is going to hamper reconstruction. A marathon, and rescue/reconstruction efforts, are mutually exclusive.

    It’s hard enough to pull this kind of thing off in a city that hasn’t suffered this sort of disaster.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    As theresita says, this smacks of “Keeping up appearances.” God forbid some New York politico miss out on a chance to pose with the marathoners, or be unable to deliver some canned speech, at the starting line (which no one’s going to pay any attention to.) The show must go on!

  • Adam


    I wasn’t “concern-trolling,” and my sincerest apologies if I came off that way. I am absolutely *not* a proponent of the church selling its art to feed the poor, and yes, I’m completely aware that the church feeds and clothes aplenty. As a Catholic, I *have* been subjected to the question about why the church possesses wealth, and I’ve often been at a loss to answer it.

    My chosen profession is as a lawyer, so I’m naturally trained to look at both sides of an issue. So my gut reaction on reading the post was to question why NYC can’t *both* hold the marathon and aid the victims–particularly when my church is often slapped with a similar question. Mandy and Rhinestone’s answers were objectively helpful in answering that question. Your calling me out as a bigot–perhaps misreading or overlooking my “devil’s advocate” caveat at the beginning of the post–was not. Given how long I’ve read your blog, I’d hoped you’d be a little more charitable than that.

    So, sorry for not being clearer that I was asking questions for my own curiosity. I hope this clarifies where I was coming from. At the very least, PLEASE don’t lump me in with anti-Catholic bigots.

    [Sorry Adam. I did misread you, and that's mostly because I'm in a terrible, terrible mood today, a little overwhelmed, working too fast and probably in all ways unfit to be at the desk today! I took the "costly perfume" bit as a hint that you were concern trolling b/c in all of the back-and-forth I hear about church, I never hear an argument attempting to excuse helping the poor b/c "they're always with us." I apologize. I was arguing with someone via email and then game in and thwapped you unjustly. I rarely do lose patience, and wish I'd not wasted it on the wrong guy, this time! :-) -admin]

  • calahalexander

    That’s awful. Honestly, awful. I agree that the marathon runners should just drop out and volunteer to help with rescue efforts. I would.

  • merkn

    I also did not take Adam’s point as bigoted. I also hear that criticism about the Church’s use of ots wealth all the time. Yes, it is a criticism offered by the ignorant, but Adam was not offering it as a criticism himself. Calling him a bigot was uncharitable.

    I really do not care for mayor Bloomberg at all, and do not like the marathon. But what if there is a cost associated with cancelling it? What if it costs the City millions of dollars to cancel it. Millions that we obviosly will need. What resources exactly are being diverted that could otherwise be used to help staten Island. There are 25,000 police in NYC. The Central Park generators everyone is upset about are not owned by the City. The appearances are awful I agree. But it is possible that the Mayor made tough call in a bad spot that he believes will benefit the city overall. I think we should see some evidence before we start rendering moral judgments. I am assuming that no one will go without food or shelter because of the marathon. If there is some evidence that that is not the case I would like to see it.

  • Adam

    Oh, darn–I hate terrible moods. No harm done, so all is well. Let’s offer our grumpiness up to God for the poor souls (in Purgatory and in NYC alike!) and call it a day!

    [Yes, let us! You're very gracious. My son is offering me a Guinness b/c he's had enough of me, today! :-) -admin]

  • Romulus

    I think it’s in extremely poor taste, but it isn’t exactly keeping up appearances either. For most of NYC the storm was not much more than a stormy night. Cold comfort to those who lost their lives or loved ones in terrible ways, or who were flooded or burnt to the ground — but we all know the old saying: if it bleeds it leads. My advice to our out-of-state financial partners after Katrina was: turn off your TV.

    By marathon time most of NYC will be back to its normal self. The brutal truth is that from a purely crass and self-interested point of view, NYC is probably capable of pulling this off. Don’t know why they would want to, though.

    We were not running marathons in New Orleans a week after Katrina. We were still under water. We did celebrate Mardi Gras (six months later), but that’s a party we throw for ourselves; we just let y’all come.

    For the record, I got power back a month after the storm (sorry; I mean Katrina. It’s a habit.) My elderly parents were not back in their (flooded and burned) home for a year. My sister and her family never lived in their (flooded) home again. My mother in law lost her (flooded and gutted) home and was homeless because of insurance fraud. My boss’s house on the Gulf coast, and his parents’ house were…gone. Just gone. My boat vanished, with nothing left but a yard of the shore power line, still plugged in. Also, there’s the small matter of over a hundred people in Haiti dead from Sandy, and 200,000 desperately poor people with no roof over their heads. Just offering a little perspective.

    I know you’ve had a rough week, Elizabeth. I hope you and yours are safe and secure.

    “Our Father in Heaven, through the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, spare us from all harm during this hurricane season, and protect us and our homes from all disasters of nature. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.”

  • Adam

    Bleah–I hope I’m not overstaying my welcome, but the NY Times is reporting that the marathon is called off. (H/T to Ann Althouse, where I found the link.)

    Honestly, who knows what influences these decisions. Greed’s entirely possible, but it could also be a boneheaded move which was perceived as the right one at the time. My last job was as the deputy attorney to a commander of a large military base–we’d constantly give him advice on significant matters, from whether he could make an appearance at the opening of a casino to whether he should send someone to jail. Our advice wasn’t in a vacuum–I’m sure he was constantly consulting his Public Affairs guy, his vice commander, his chief enlisted advisor, hopefully his chaplain, and who knows who else. I can only guess how many advisors Bloomberg has, and maybe too many told him that the marathon was a good idea. (“It’ll be good for the community if you do!” “You’ll get sued if you don’t!”) Of course, being the decisionmaker, the final call was his, so hopefully we can give him credit for finally making the right call.

  • Kathleen

    thank you for bringing attention to our problems. My family was safe, thank God, we had no power til about an hour ago, but we are all alive and our house was not damaged. Neighbors and friends are pulling together and Staten Island is taking care of its own. We are very grateful for the help sent by other Americans, especially the gentlemen from Alabama and Illinois who removed the huge tree on our block and repaired the two electric poles that had fallen…we are thankful but worried about our fellow islanders on the east shore, and of course the people of Breezy who had it worse.

  • Colet

    Thank you for posting this with the links for donation. I’ve been so concerned about the state of the nation as a kind of large looming philosophical issue that I became paralyzed. Thanks for reminding us that we can DO something!