Why Bloomberg Fought for — and Then Caved on — the Marathon

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Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

On most issues Mayor Bloomberg takes criticism as a vindication that he's made the right choice. But his decision to cave in and cancel Sunday's marathon is another indication — not that the city needed one — that the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is bigger and different than anything else inflicted on New York. With emotions raw as more bodies are being discovered on Staten Island and as power returns fitfully to other areas, Bloomberg saw that the proximity of last Monday's storm to this Sunday's race was too much to overcome. And today major marathon sponsors, including ING, began pulling out.

The mayor's insistence, until this afternoon, that the city could and should handle hurricane relief and a road race at the same time wasn't callous. It's consistent with his hard-headed sentimentality, a belief that mourning loss is important but that the greatest memorial is pressing forward and building a better future.

This attitude sometimes came across as harsh when Bloomberg was dealing with the families of 9/11 victims, but it was instrumental in the city's rebound. And staging the marathon this Sunday would have lifted some spirits, brought in some money, and reinforced the city's image of resilience.

But Bloomberg's uncharacteristic reversal shows that he understands there are even more important tasks at the moment.