Dateline | November 02, 2012
>>> of the biggest questions after the storm was to run or not to run? should the city cancel the new york city marathon ? mayor michael bloomberg ignited a firestorm of controversy when he decided earlier this week to let the marathon go on as scheduled this sunday. the mayor is a man who doesn't often change his mind, but tonight, he did. stephanie gosk has the reasons why.
>> reporter: in a city devastated by this storm, holding a road race through five battered boroughs finally just seemed like the wrong idea.
>> marathon ceases to be about running and it was all about how best to aid new york city .
>> reporter: it was a decision that left some runners disappointed.
>> i feel for all the people that -- that had problems, but you don't pull something -- you don't pull the plug at the last minute. he could have made that decision days and days ago.
>> reporter: but many city residents relieved.
>> i think there's a thin line between demonstrating resiliency and being insensitive.
>> reporter: the reversal came as a surprise, just earlier today mayor michael bloomberg had defended his decision to hold the new york city marathon on sunday, a race that had never been canceled in its 40-year history.
>> new york has to show that we are here and that we are going to recover. and give people something to cheer about.
>> reporter: but far from cheering, many new yorkers had been angry about the possibility of diverting city resources at a time of suffering. police, sanitation workers, who may have been needed elsewhere.
>> they would rather have a marathon than give the water to the people running than the people who need it who don't have house, lights or heating.
>> reporter: food, water and port-a-potties had already been trucked on to the course for sunday, enough generators to power 400 homes were standing by while many new yorkers were still in the dark. the outrage of it all had been building for days, especially on staten island , the hard hit borough where the race was to begin.
>> city of new york now is preparing for a marathon . we're pulling bodies out of water. you see the disconnect here?
>> reporter: the 26.2 mile race would have wound its way through each borough in the city, a virtual tour of sandy's destruction. the dilemma was in sharp focus here at the staten island hilton garden inn , owner richard nicotra was not honoring marathoners reservations, keeping rooms for needy new yorkers.
>> do i throw my neighbor out into the street, or provide a room for an out of towner so they can sleep and be able to run in a race? i think the decision is pretty easy to make.
>> reporter: so why did the mayor reverse course ? instead of a news conference, he issued a statement. while holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division. we would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants. and so we have decided to cancel it.
>> definitely right call. it should have been on this weekend.
>> reporter: it is a bittersweet decision for the runners and the city. and with this competitive race canceled, no one is a winner.
>> stephanie gosk joins us now from new york central park. stephanie , any idea what the tipping point was in the decision to call off the race?
>> reporter: lester, there was a debate over whether or not -- the race would divert resources from the city, but really this boiled down to in the end a question of sensitivity and one of the biggest symbols of what people are beginning to perceive as a lack of sensitivity are these generators behind me. they were brought in by race organizers to do things like power the race clock and media tent. but they're large enough to power 400 homes and as you know, there are a lot of homes in this city without power. these generators were on the front page of the new york post today, triggered a lot of anger. that anger grew throughout the day. lester?
>> the decision has been made, but let's think there is usually 45,000 or so runners that come from the marathon , most of them from out of town. how hard is it to unwind an event of this magnitude?
>> reporter: it is pretty tricky. almost all of those racers are in town. they have registered. they have their t-shirts. they have their numbers, they have their hotel rooms . the infrastructure for the race is pretty substantial as well. you have stands that have already been built here. and lots of that has been done. it is going to take days to undo it.
>> stephanie gosk, thanks.
>>> i spent some time this week with people who lost everything to the flood, and fire that destroyed much of the community of breezy point.