The frustration is palpable, but unfocused.
Last week, when 80-mile-per-hour winds toppled trees and construction cranes, and ocean waves swept through streets and pulled cars out to sea, New Yorkers blamed Hurricane Sandy for their woes.
‘On the news, the mayor’s congratulating the governor and the governor’s congratulating the mayor. About what? People died’
But six days later, with millions still without power, clean water or perishable food; with no centralized organization caring for thousands of families made homeless by the storm; with tens of thousands of marathon runners angry at the last-minute cancellation of the premier event of their sport; with the New York government waiting nearly a week into a desperate fuel shortage to ask the US military for emergency shipments – New Yorkers no longer feel the hurricane is responsible for their misery.
“Do you see anybody here [to help]?” Staten Island resident Janice Clarkin asked on Saturday, gazing at her beachfront bungalow on the island’s southeast coast that was swept from its foundation by the storm and tossed across the street. She added: “On the news, the mayor’s congratulating the governor and the governor’s congratulating the mayor. About what? People died.”
Many New Yorkers are wondering why Staten Islanders had to wait four days – until bridges reopened – to deliver basic supplies, warm clothes and rescue teams to the island.
For many thousands of families in the worst-affected areas in New York and New Jersey, their first complaint to reporters is that they have seen little or no support or help from the outside. Without electricity or cellphone reception, they struggle to even learn about relief efforts and get information about when they might see power and other utilities restored.
Politicians are also beginning to notice the discrepancy between the compliments exchanged among them in the days following Sandy’s landfall, and the seeming motionlessness of the efforts to help hundreds of thousands of families who lost their homes and businesses.
New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand visited Long Island’s worst-hit areas on Friday, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Staten Island the same day.
The Army Corps of Engineers will help with the cleanup, it was announced Friday. The military would contribute 12 million gallons of fuel to help ameliorate a dire fuel shortage, it was reported Saturday.
Too little, too late, say locals in the affected regions. Government officials, they feel, have failed them. Federal and state agencies that spent the past week congratulating themselves on their efficient response to Hurricane Sandy were nowhere to be found.
Despite the cancellation, hundreds of disappointed runners, clad in their marathon jerseys and numbers, could be seen training Saturday in the pathways of Manhattan’s Central Park. Many said they planned to participate in an unofficial marathon the next day. ‘People came to run. People are going to run’
Martin Oliner, mayor of the Long Island village of Lawrence, echoed the feelings of many when he told the New York Times that he could not understand “why in the last four days, until today, I have been having conversations that haven’t been meaningful.”
With millions still without power or heat and temperatures expected to drop nearly to freezing Saturday night, another group felt cheated by poor government planning in Sandy’s wake. Nearly 50,000 runners who had arrived in New York City by Friday morning were angered by the Friday afternoon cancellation of the race, after most of the runners had already completed the mandatory in-person registration that same day.
“I understand the decision,” said Dr. William Sharfman, an observant Jew from Baltimore, Maryland, who was spending the weekend in New York and planned to run the race. But, he added, “it was the right decision to make on Wednesday,” when most runners could still have canceled their travel plans and accommodations.
Now, having invested time and money in a race he would not run, “I feel sad and foolish,” he said.
New York newspapers were filled Saturday with stories of runners, some from third-world countries, who had spent thousands of dollars to participate and who considered the New York race – the most important and popular in the distance-running community – a highlight of their sporting career.
Despite the cancellation, hundreds of disappointed runners, clad in their marathon jerseys and numbers, could be seen training Saturday in the pathways of Manhattan’s Central Park. Many said they planned to participate in an unofficial marathon the next day.
“People came to run. People are going to run,” said one woman, a registered marathon runner who was considering participating in the informal race.
A large group of some fifty runners from Belgium, most in their 30s, insisted they would stay and run the original route of the marathon from the 1970s, which would avoid damaged areas in the boroughs and take them four times around Central Park.
The informal race lacked permits, so planners were avoiding official announcements or Facebook notices on Saturday, but plans called for an 8 AM start time and a second 10 AM start time. Participants suggested as many as 5,000 might participate.
That camaraderie seemed the only consolation for thousands of disappointed runners.
AP contributed to this report.