Maybe it’s not fair to say that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become so much like a crazed Roman Emperor that he’s going to put his horse on the city council, but he does have the whole “give them bread and circuses” thing down pat. He stood up today to defend his decision to hold the New York City Marathon on Sunday, despite the small problem that a huge chunk of his city was recently blown to flinders then swamped by several feet of seawater.
The marathon will move forward, and “there will be no diversion of resources” away from services to victims of Hurricane Sandy, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg today at a press conference in City Hall.
“If I thought it took any resources away from that, we would not do this,” he said, referring to recovery operations. “But we have plenty of police officers that work in areas that aren’t affected. We don’t take all of them and move them into areas that are affected.”
Obviously, the Mayor doesn’t know much about crisis management and resource allocation. The trick, as you can easily figure out with a small dollop of common-sense, is not to put every police officer in the area of crisis, but to keep the maximum number of police officers available and ready to deploy when the unexpected inevitable complication arises. Like, say, a large number of people gathering at a gas station where the supply of fuel might not be abundant.
Simon Ressner, a lieutenant at the Fire Department, said that the police and fire departments and ambulance drivers are often needed unexpectedly in a disaster situation like this one. He noted that at least four police officers were at one gas station at Flatbush that he passed Thursday en route to evaluate the safety of some burned homes in Breezy Point, Queens. About 300 people had gathered to fill their gas cans, and the police officers were there to control the crowd.
“There’s a concrete example of why you need all the city resources available right now,” said Ressner, who added that he was 80 percent sure he would run Sunday. “I’ve written two e-mails to the Road Runners saying, ‘Just postpone it.’ That way, you’ll still get the money, you’ll still have a high-profile event, but it would show that you’re being sensitive. But now, we’re not going to show the world we’re resilient, we’re going to show them we’re selfish.”
Or how about a scheduled meeting with FEMA officials that drew a couple hundred people but didn’t draw the actual FEMA officials?
Tonight, in Broad Channel, a sliver of land on Jamaica Bay which was hammered by the hurricane, there was a near riot when 280 people arrived for a much anticipated meeting with FEMA representatives, but the reps didn’t show up. That caused already frayed tempers to boil over, and residents blocked traffic to vent their anger.
“It’s fair to say there’s a very high level of frustration,” says Dan Mundy, a longtime resident of Broad Channel and a battalion chief with the FDNY. “It got ugly for a couple of minutes. People blocking traffic. We had the meeting in a pitch black parking lot and were able to calm them down.”
And that’s just the police. The Mayor didn’t mention the medical personnel who would be on the scene (ever seen a race without a couple ambulances in the near vicinity?), the supplies of food and water for the participants, or the generators. All of those resources are needed elsewhere and will be diverted to support an event that could be moved to another date.
Granted, that does mean a few thousand runners will have to reschedule their hotel and flight reservations, but I don’t see that as a huge problem given that hotel space is a bit rare right now. Besides, I suspect the runners will find the airlines and hotels would be more than happy to work with them in exchange for all the good (and dirt-cheap) publicity they’d get out of it.
UPDATE: The Mayor’s office announced late this evening the marathon is cancelled. I would have thought a postponement was the better choice, and a cancellation at this late hour on a Friday would put one heck of a crimp into lots of people’s plans, but what do I know? I’m not the smartypants Mayor of New York.