TODAY   |  November 02, 2012

Manhattan president: ‘Postpone the marathon’

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer tells TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie he believes Mayor Bloomberg should postpone the New York City marathon as congressman Michael Grimm from Staten Island says he’s “angry” over plans to continue with the race

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> to begin the half hour with the controversial decision to still hold the new york city marathon . nbc's craig melvin is in central park with more. craig , good morning to you.

>> reporter: savannah, good morning. that marathon , of course, winds its way through all five boroughs here in new york city and ends behind me here in central park . the park remains closed this morning. i spoke to a worker a short time ago, still cutting down damaged trees and clearing debris but the preparations continued. as you mentioned, the race will go on. that decision has some wondering how and others wondering why. sandy knocked out power for millions, flooded tunnels and shut down subways, but the massive and deadly storm that's crippled the city won't stop its marathon .

>> it's a bold move. it's a move that, as you know, does not come without some controversially.

>> and off they go.

>> reporter: for nearly 50,000 registered runners the race to the finish may prove easier than a journey to the start.

>> i assume if the marathon is going to happen, they are going to have ways to get people out there.

>> reporter: starting line is on staten island and marathoners usually take a ferry or bus through the brooklyn battery tunnel . staten island itself remains in disarray, and the decision to go forward with the marathon has many local officials furious.

>> the city of new york right now is talking about getting water out of the battery tunnel and preparing for a marathon . we're pulling bodies out of water.

>> reporter: and there are runners like louise who came all the way from down under.

>> i'm here with my son and my husband is stuck in the uk so whether or not he gets here we're not sure.

>> reporter: 20,000 marathoners flying here from all over the world and while new york city streets are now opened they are backlogged because of cancelled flights.

>> and thousands of runners and their families crowding already packed hotels. on thursday, mary whitenberg, ceo and president of the group that organizes the marathon , defended the decision to matt.

>> the idea is come sunday to bring the city together and help the world unite to really support this relief effort.

>> reporter: and the race supports the new york city economy, generating about $350 million for the big apple every year. it also requires major support from city departments, but mayor bloomberg promised it won't distract from recovery efforts.

>> the marathon is not going to redirect any focus. keep in mind by sunday we'll have electricity back downtown, that will free up an enormous number of police.

>> reporter: new york city has always had a reputation as one tough town and now having survived some of mother nature 's worse they are bracing to be ready for one of the biggest running event in the world.

>> they said that they are going to be retrofitting the station so that everyone can get there. i'm sure they will figure it out.

>> reporter: this morning 14 of the city's 23 subway lines are open and running again. the mayor says he expects more if not all to be up and running by sunday. race organizers say they will be using private buses to get runners to the starting line , but for many this is not about logistics, it's about optics. savannah?

>> craig melvin at central park , thank you.

>>> congressman michael grim represents the borough of staten island and scott stringer is the staten island president. you are right there in staten island , an area so hard hit. reactions to this border from frustration, to bewilderment and rage, and i detect from you you feel some rage about this decision.

>> well, there's no question i'm angry about it, and i'm exoegt sentiments of all the people i'm visiting on a regular basis. like three different groups of people here on staten island , those that are still grieving their loved ones , their friends and their neighbors for lives that we lost. those that don't know where friends, neighbors, family members, are they are displaced. we don't even know their status and there's a good chance death tolls can still rise, and then there are those that are literally walking the street and they seem almost hopeful. they have lost everything. they have no more home and don't know where to go, and then you have the groups -- go ahead.

>> into this scene there's talk of sending upwards of 40,000 runners to the new york city marathon . i should mention, congressman, we invited the mayor or a representative from the mayor's office to come on, and they declined but they did give a statement saying our recovery efforts are on going and none will be impacted by the marathon . no resources will be reduced. sir, do you buy that?

>> well, here's the problem with that. you've got to understand. the mayor has one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and i do respect that. however, there are people right now that have absolutely no heat. they are sitting still in the dark in their apartments and they have no food. my office has been getting calls that someone checked on a neighbor and found out they haven't eaten so they are bringing food over there so to say we have enough resources just isn't accurate. it's not true. there are still many people who have no idea where they are going to be living for the next 30 days and the city has not been able to give answers about where to find transitional housing so there's a lot of unanswers questions, and i think the optics on this, it goes to the heart of how people in staten island feel. we feel like no one understands us.

>> let me ask you to stand by for a movement i want to turn to scott stringer , the borough power. abuse of power, massive generators are providing electricity to a tent in central park , not in staten island . you initially supported the mayor edecision. have you changed your mind?

>> i give mayor bloomberg and governor cuomo respect for their efforts. i believe in this case we have to be very cautious. as congressman grimm stated, staten island is suffering. breezy point, queens is suffering and let me tell you about lower manhattan . i was going yesterday build by building and people are suffering. you know what they need? they need generators, they need food, they need supplies. i think the prudent course of action. postpone the marathon . come back a different day. our first priority is to help people who lost their homes and missing loved ones and the people in manhattan, the financial hub of the world, when you go down there it looks like a wasteland so i give the mayor credit for wanting to do it all but i think in a close call we have to be very cautious. let me just mention two things. new york has two great traditions, it's the marathon and the other tradition is new yorkers helping new yorkers and when we fight for our city, we also have to recognize that this time it's about helping new yorkers, not the marathon . we'll come back and do that a different time.

>> very quickly, congressman, the argument is that there's an economic benefit. $350 million the city expect to get from the event. is that not a reason to keep it going?

>> absolutely not. first of all, this is how i feel as a staten islander . we had looting going on for two days in a row, and the people that were looted and the people that live in these neighborhoods feel if there's going to be any resources to -- for police officers , let's have them here and let's stop looting and things like that before we send them to take care of the marathon . it's apples and oranges , symbolic for us and how we feel.

>> happy to have you on on a busy morning. thank you to you both. we want to hear from our viewers. do you think the marathon should be cancelled, or should it go on? you can logon to and let us know what you