Bloomberg says marathon just became too ‘divisive’

Bloomberg in the Rockaways on Saturday morning. (Kristen Arzt, NYC Mayor's Office.)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg explained his decision to cancel the New York City Marathon at a press conference at City Hall this afternoon.

"It became a source of dissension and we don't need that right now," the mayor said, when asked what had changed between Friday morning, when he maintained the race should go on, and Friday evening, when he officially canceled the race.

"The spirit of the race is to bring people together," he said. "When it became a divisive issue, i just made a decision that it should not go on."

Bloomberg postponed a question about the marathon until the very end of the press conference, which was called to update New Yorkers on the city's recovery from Hurricane Sandy. He was joined by two secretaries from the Obama administration, Kathleen Sebelius of Health and Human Services, and Shaun Donovan, Bloomberg's former housing secretary, who now serves the same function for the president.

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The mayor said that two more deaths had been reported overnight—bringing the death total to 42—and that the greatest threat right now to those still suffering from the effects of Sandy, especially those in parts of Staten Island and the Rockaways, was the coming cold weather and the possibility of hypothermia, though he said no cases had been reported yet.

Bloomberg also said the Long Island Power Authority had "not acted aggressively enough" to restore power to its customers in the Rockaways.

"We think they should be first in line," said the mayor, who visited the area on Saturday morning, adding the current progress was "not acceptable."

He said gasoline was beginning to flow through the main pipeline into the city, with 100,000 barrels delivered yesterday, but that "it might take awhile" for residents to see the effects at their local service stations.

Earlier in the day, a program by Governor Andrew Cuomo to dispense free gasoline in parts of the city was scrapped, when the massive lines descended into chaos.

Bloomberg also said the damaged crane on West 57th Street had been successfully tethered to the building, and that the street will re-open tonight.

The mayor was also asked about potential problems with voting on Tuesday. The Board of Elections plans to set up certain outdoor voting sites in damaged areas, but there are concerns about whether it will have the fuel to run its own generators.

"We all have the same problems and we have to work through it," said Bloomberg, who has been a frequent critic of the board. "Hopefully their staff knows what they're doing."

"We'd be happy to help," he added, "but we don't run the Board of Elections, which is the frustrating thing."