NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg came under fire Friday for pressing ahead with this weekend’s New York Marathon in a city still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, with some New Yorkers saying that holding the race would be insensitive and divert police, generators and other resources when many are still suffering.
Joan Wacks, whose Staten Island waterfront condo was swamped with 4 feet of water, predicted authorities will still be recovering bodies when the estimated 40,000 runners from around the world hit the streets for the 26.2-mile race Sunday, and she called the mayor ‘‘tone deaf.’’
‘‘He is clueless without a paddle to the reality of what everyone else is dealing with,’’ she said. ‘‘If there are any resources being put toward the marathon, that’s wrong. I'm sorry, that’s wrong.’’
At a news conference, Bloomberg defended his decision as a way to raise money for the stricken city and boost morale less than a week after Sandy flooded neighborhoods, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands homes and businesses and killed at least 39 people.
Bloomberg said New York ‘‘has to show that we are here and we are going to recover’’ and ‘‘give people something to cheer about in what has been a very dismal week for a lot of people.’’
‘‘You have to keep going and doing things,’’ he said. ‘‘You can grieve and you can cry and you can laugh, and that’s what human beings are good at.’’
He noted that his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, went ahead with the New York Marathon two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
‘‘If you go back to 9/11, Rudy made the right decision in those days to run the marathon and pull people together,’’ Bloomberg said.
One of the world’s pre-eminent road races, the New York Marathon generates an estimated $340 million into the city. This time, the marathon’s sponsors and organizers have dubbed it the ‘‘Race to Recover’’ and intend to use the event to raise money for the city to deal with the crisis. New York Road Runners, the race organizer, will donate $1 million and said sponsors have pledged more than $1.5 million.
‘‘It’s hard in these moments to know what’s best to do,’’ NYRR president Mary Wittenberg said. ‘‘The city believes this is best to do right now.’’
The course runs from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on hard-hit Staten Island to Central Park, sending runners through all five boroughs. The course will not be changed, since there was little damage along the route.
Earlier this week, the mayor gave assurances the race wouldn’t siphon off resources from the storm recovery, noting electricity is expected to be restored to all of Manhattan by race day, freeing up ‘‘an enormous number of police.’’
New Yorker Michael Sofronas used to run the marathon and has been a race volunteer for four years, serving as an interpreter for foreign runners. But he said he won’t volunteer this year.
‘‘I'm also really very aghast at the fact that we've just gone through the Sandy hurricane and I believe that the people should not be diverted to the marathon. They should focus on the people in need,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s all about money, money from everybody. The sponsors, the runners.’’
A Swede who arrived in New York this week to run in the marathon sided with the mayor.
‘‘It doesn’t feel good, coming to New York,’’ said Maria Eriksson, 27. ‘‘But the marathon has been planned for such a long time. And besides, it brings so much money to the city. That should help. What help would it be to cancel?’’
But John Esposito, a Staten Islander helping his elderly parents clean out their flooded home, said: ‘‘They brought giant generators to power the marathon tents while we've got thousands of people without power. ... How about putting one of these generators here? Have some compassion.’’