NEW YORK —  Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried  to sell the New York City Marathon as a symbolic victory for the city after a  devastating storm, invoking two of the biggest symbols of them all — Rudy  Giuliani and 9/11.

The former mayor, Bloomberg said, made the right decision by holding the  marathon less than two months after the 2001 terror attacks: “It pulled people  together, and we have to find some ways to express ourselves and show our  solidarity with each other.”

Then, he kept talking.

“You have to keep going and doing things, and you can grieve, you can cry and  you can laugh all at the same time,” he said.

And once again, the city cringed, hearing another false note that renewed  familiar criticism that New York’s billionaire businessman mayor is tone-deaf to  suffering in a crisis. By the time the mayor changed course three hours later  Friday and called off the world’s largest marathon, he had already offended a  passel of flood-weary New Yorkers.

“He is clueless without a paddle to the reality of what everyone else is  dealing with,” fumed Joan Wacks, whose waterfront condo in Staten Island was  under 4 feet of water. “He’s supposed to be the mayor of all the city, but he’s  really the mayor of Manhattan.”

It was a rare reversal for Bloomberg, who’s known for sticking by his  decisions, however unpopular. He’s built a reputation for being an efficient,  independent-minded pragmatist in office, a philanthropist and public health  innovator, and he has gotten praise for the city’s preparedness for the  storm.

But at times, people say he lacks empathy for the people he leads.

There was the post-Christmas blizzard that dumped 2 feet of snow on the city  in 2010, when the mayor raised hackles by encouraging New Yorkers to enjoy the  snow or see a Broadway show to help the city’s economy. Residents said the mayor  failed to appreciate the outer-borough New Yorkers stranded by snow drifts that  hadn’t been plowed, unable and without the money to go to the theater.

There was a long-running feud about Sept. 11 victims’ remains that were  recovered in downtown Manhattan five years after the attacks. A victim’s family  member, Diane Horning, said then that the mayor indicated he didn’t identify  with families wanting their loved ones’ remains because he wanted to donate his  body to science.

Bloomberg was branded an out-of-touch, big-business cheerleader when he said  Con Edison’s chairman “deserves a thanks from this city” amid a 10-day blackout  that affected 174,000 people in parts of Queens in July 2006.

“Going after the CEO just because somebody wants to have somebody to blame  doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Bloomberg said as the outage was in its eighth  sweltering day. The remark raised eyebrows, even among the politicians standing  behind the mayor at a news briefing.

All this week, the mayor kept returning to economics when defending his  decision to keep the marathon going. Officials said the marathon brings in $340  million; it was unclear how much the city still stands to get from the thousands  of runners already in town.

“I think for those who were lost,” he said earlier this week, “you’ve got to  believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on.”

He faced criticism from everyone from sanitation workers unhappy that they  had volunteered to help storm victims but were assigned to the race, to police  union leaders, to the Manhattan borough president to his ally, City Council  Speaker Christine Quinn.

Melanie Bright, who went three days without electricity and hot water, said  the mayor didn’t get it. “He feels like we should carry on with our lives, even  though people have lost everything,” she said.

In a sign of how swiftly the tide turned, City Hall told local officials well  into midafternoon that the race was on, according to a person familiar with the  situation, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes  conversations.

Ultimately, Bloomberg canceled the event.

“We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event — even one as  meaningful as this — to distract attention away from all the critically  important work that is being done to recover from the storm.”

The decision quickly drew praise from some of the same officials who had  slammed the marathon schedule hours earlier. The mayor made a “sensitive and  prudent decision that will allow the attention of this city to remain focused on  its recovery,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

But for Eddie Kleydman, motioning toward huge piles of ruined furniture in  his Staten Island street, the mayor’s last-minute change of heart wasn’t  enough.

“He’s worried about the marathon. I’m worried about getting power,” Kleydman  said. “So he called it off. He has to come here and help us clean.”

Source: Fox


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