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November 2, 2012

Mary Wittenberg

Howard Wolfson


MARY WITTENBERG:テつ Earlier this week we sat down with the mayor and decided that the ING New York City Marathon would be an amazing opportunity to honor the city, embrace those hurt and lost in the storms and help the city move forward.
From the earliest days this week, it was all about how best to aid New York City.テつ Today it is my job to say there will not be a 2012 ING New York City Marathon.
Howard Wolfson:テつ This has obviously been a very difficult week in the life of New York.テつ There are many New Yorkers that have lost loves ones, who have lost homes, who have lost all of their possessions, who are suffering, and our hearts and our prayers and the hearts and prayers of all the participants of the race go out to those people.
We at the city have been spending all of our time, every resource in the city available, to try and aid in the recovery of the destruction of the city and we are hoping to put lives back together.
Over the course of the week it became clear that the marathon, which is really one of the very best days in the life of the city, which is a moment of unity and happiness and joy and celebration and everything that is New York, had become controversial, and candidly that controversy grew over the course of the week.テつ And those of us who love the city and those of us who love this race recognize that it wasn't a marathon if it wasn't going to unify.テつ It wasn't a marathon that we would love if there were people who were pained by the running of it.
And so in very close collaboration with Mary and her team, we decided it would be best this year to cancel it.テつ That will obviously be difficult news for people who have trained all year, people who have come from around the world to run it.テつ But it's the right decision because, as I said, this is a singular‑‑ it is the only event that I know of in New York that there's no dissenters, it is a unifying, across the board, every borough, every walk of life, every race, and this certainly has become un‑unifying and this is not a unifying marathon if every New Yorker is not behind this.テつ It's not the marathon that we know.テつ We will have a fabulous marathon next year.テつ We will have a fabulous half marathon next year. テつMost importantly we will bring comfort and relief to people who are suffering in New York City, and we will do those things as quickly as we can.
But it was clear that the race had become a distraction.テつ It had become a distraction for people who were working trying to help people.テつ It had become a distraction for the city.テつ So this was a difficult decision, a painful decision, but it was the right decision because most importantly it's getting the city back on track.

Q.テつ How possible would it be to move the marathon?
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ Every option was discussed, including modifying the course.テつ We have runners from around the world here.テつ We actually looked like we were on track for 40,000 runners.テつ The Javits center is actually packed with runners who came to New York this weekend.テつ Runners came to New York after canceled flight after canceled flight to be here to support the city.テつ So first we started with what could we run on Sunday, and in the end that was going to make sense.
Runners came for this event, and people who committed to it were here this weekend.
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ We had talked about a 10‑mile race, Mary had brought that up, and we did not think that made sense.テつ The marathon is a five‑borough race.テつ It unifies everybody, and a 10‑mile race unfortunately is not the marathon, and we thought it was better to cancel and have a great marathon next year than have some sort of truncated version this year.

Q.テつ Any way to take the resources from the marathon to donate to the relief fund?
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ Yes, from the beginning the whole idea was to help New York through this marathon, so we began early on trying to minimize the impact.テつ Yesterday within 24 hours after announcing we were going forward, we had rallied unprecedented support to actually create what we called the Race to Recover campaign, which was to build and build and build until marathon Sunday, when the marathon would have been on around the world and around the nation, and it was going to be sort of our version of a telethon to really raise funds for New York.
Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg made an unprecedented donation from our reserves of $1 million, and the Rudin family donated $1.1 million, ING our sponsor, donated $500,000, the caterers donated $26,200, and yesterday was donated $2.6 million to the relief effort.テつ So we were continuing to take on this plan.テつ We have resources here that we will need to deploy and are actively deploying, whatever the city needs, blankets, port‑a‑johns, especially in Staten Island.テつ So we wanted to get‑‑ as much as any of you need help, we're here to help.
As we said earlier, very ironically I think the placing of the 2012 ING New York City Marathon was in the end a lot of help without running it.
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ I'm hoping to emphasize that everyone's donation is as great as this one with time and money and resources.テつ Mary has included all the assets from this marathon, including water for people who need it.テつ We have an awful lot of generosity in this city the last week, and I hope that all organizations can give as generously as this one.

Q.テつ Was there one final call or discussion today that sealed the deal, perhaps you spoke with the mayor, someone that works for the city, that this really should not go forward?
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ Well, there were a lot of conversations over a period, and I think it's fair to say the opposition to the running of it, it was clear that this was not going to be a celebration of New York, it was going to be a difficult day sort of celebration, and that's not how we want it.テつ No one wants to cause any more pain to people who have suffered so much already.
And in addition, there are 300,000 odd people who work in city government who are spending all of our time trying to bring some comfort to folks who need it, parts of the city that need to be rebuilt.テつ People are going to be working around the clock.テつ I slept at City Hall last night.テつ That's not unusual, there are a lot of people sleeping at City Hall.テつ People are working so hard to try to help folks, and I don't have the bandwidth to answer questions about the marathon.
I think it's one of the best days in the city.テつ I love this race.テつ Some day I hope to finish it.テつ But it is not at the same level that bringing the city back to life in all five boroughs is.テつ My team, people who work at City Hall, we want to focus on things that are really important, and focusing on the marathon, while it's important, it's not as important as some of the other things we're working on.
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ I just want to add, all week it's been about New Yorkers and healing and really supporting our New Yorkers, and that is top priority.テつ I'll tell you a story about what happened, and as hard as this is, this is something that shouldn't have been helping, either.テつ So there actually became this animosity towards runners, runners who were coming from around the world and around the nation and around the city who had spent anywhere from six months, four months, two months to train and come here and be part of this in New York and consciously chose to still come, and what was happening is people were criticizing runners, and there was a dynamic that was a really unhealthy dynamic and perception about runners and marathoners and people coming here that is not healthy for anybody.
This is not an easy decision to make, but we really want to thank those runners from around the world, that want to give back to New York City.テつ It's really with a debt of gratitude that we appreciate that they came.
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ Anybody who doesn't love the marathon, who doesn't love what the marathon means to New York, and this year obviously that changed.テつ There were people who found the marathon, the very idea of it, very painful, and as I said, that's not what the marathon is, that's not what it's about.テつ This is a unifying event.

Q.テつ Did you consult all five borough presidents before making the decision?
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ We spent a lot of time the last week speaking with elected officials on an ongoing basis.テつ We had a number of conversations with folks in all branches of government.テつ Some people who were initially for it decided that they had made the wrong choice and decided that's it.テつ So there's always decisions to be made at the end of the day, and it was the mayor's decision, and he made it for the city.
I don't think as I said there was one sticking point.テつ It was clear over the course of the week something that every year brings joy and unity in the city had become derisive and painful.テつ Next year it will go back to being a wonderful, unifying, celebratory event, and in the meantime the New York City Road Runners are going to help people get their lives back together?

Q.テつ Obviously you spoke about some of the physical resources that are going to put toward the recovery, the tents, the generators.
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ Yes, we're working with City Hall to know what really can be most hopeful where, so we've literally taken some of our best event guys who have been working on every contingency and planning the marathon and now are putting our resources toward doing as much as we can.テつ We have tents set up, we have a lot of port‑a‑johns, we have a lot of things that can be helpful.テつ Whatever we can do to help we'll be doing helping, including generators and otherwise.
I'd also say, to Howard's point, city officials struggling to change their mind, New York Road Runners is a not‑for‑profit‑‑ its whole reason for being is to help this city in so many ways through running.テつ We put on this marathon to do that, that's the only reason.テつ We put on this marathon to inspire kids to run.テつ We put on this marathon to help local businesses thrive.テつ We put on this marathon to raise over $34 million every year for local charities.テつ We put on this marathon to send a picture post card to the world that New York City is the warm, vibrant city that we all know.
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ When the marathon began it was in Central Park, and the decision was made to run through all five boroughs, and it's a model of unity.テつ As I said, this year there was not unity around the marathon.

Q.テつ (Inaudible).
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ You know, that's obviously symbolic, but it was symbolic of‑‑ let's be honest, again, of the idea of running this race while people are suffering.テつ Yesterday I met a lot of people who had lost everything, and they were understandably pained and angry, and some of that pain and anger was directed at the marathon, and nobody who came here to run the marathon wants to contribute to the pain and suffering of people who have already suffered so much.
You're all following the story.テつ You all are on social media.テつ You all talk to friends who live in the city, and you've seen that there's a lot of anger directed at the marathon.テつ It was clear that the people who are suffering the most were looking upon this as a source of unhappiness.

Q.テつ Did you actually receive any threats against runners?テつ Were you aware of any action that they had been taking against runners?テつ Were you concerned for their safety?テつ And secondly, what do you say to the 40,000 including elite athletes who are in this city?
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ One, we became concerned that certainly no runner, the best in the world or somebody hoping to finish, was going to receive something less than a welcome mat across the board.テつ It became difficult for volunteers.テつ Everybody is big and strong and stands up tall and believes in this event, but again, this is not what this is all about.テつ Again, it's just not what was meant to be this time.
We are really sorry to the runners who have come from around the world, around the nation, around the city.テつ There is a whole 'nother side to this.テつ Yesterday at the expo people were saying, I've overcome breast cancer, running this race saved my life.テつ There are tens of thousands of those.テつ We asked for donations.テつ This is a moment when people have lost lives.テつ This is not where we expected to be three weeks ago.テつ We want to thank them.テつ We want to tell them we're sorry, and we ask for their understanding.テつ I'm very hopeful that‑‑ all somebody has to do is turn on the television, and we'll have their understanding.
HOWARD WOLFSON:テつ The marathon is an enormous economic generator for the city.テつ It helps with our tax bills, it helps us pay our police officers, our teachers.テつ It helps businesses.テつ I know I am sure that there are businesses in Brooklyn who will be feeling the absence of the marathon on Sunday.テつ This is a city that is very focused on‑‑ we set a record last year of 50 million tourists.テつ We are the No.1 tourist destination in America.テつ People who came here expecting to run through five boroughs of the city and finish a marathon, we hope that there is an understanding that these are extraordinary circumstances.テつ We had weather that we won't see again for a long time and hadn't seen for a long time before, and we in the city have to focus on that.テつ We hope people understand that.

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