NEW YORK — The Nets’ regular-season debut in Brooklyn will have to wait. The New York City Marathon, however, is good to go.
With mass transportation still crippled in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the NBA to postpone Thursday’s highly anticipated opener between the Knicks and Nets at the Barclays Center, and the league agreed.
“It’s a great stadium, it would have been a great game, but the bottom line is: There is not a lot of mass transit. Our police have plenty of other things to do,” Bloomberg said at a news conference Wednesday.
The Nets are working with the league to find a makeup date. Tickets for Thursday’s game will be honored for the rescheduled game.
The Barclays Center sits above the Atlantic Avenue subway station complex which plays host to nine subway lines and a Long Island Rail Road station, and was expanded as part of the $1 billion arena’s construction.
But without knowing what – if any – subways would be available and with city officials still preferring people not drive into New York, the Nets agreed with the decision.
“We’re disappointed that we can’t play, but there’s a lot more important things going on right now, a lot of people displaced from their homes, a lot of people lost loved ones. So in the grand scheme of things, a basketball game really doesn’t mean much right now,” Nets point guard Deron Williams told reporters after practice. “I think it’d be hard for a lot of people to even get to the game in the first place, with public transportation being shut down. I guess it makes sense to not have the game.”
The New York City Marathon is a go for Sunday, and while logistical questions persist one thing is certain: The 26-mile route will have a disaster for a backdrop. And a debate.
“I think some people said you shouldn’t run the marathon,” Bloomberg said. “There’s an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy. There’s lots of people that have come here. It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.”
The marathon brings an estimated $340 million in economic impact to the city.
Race organizers were still trying to assess how widespread damage from Superstorm Sandy might affect plans, including getting runners into the city to transporting them to the start line on Staten Island. Easing their worries a bit was news that 14 of the city’s 23 subway lines were expected to be operating by Thursday morning - though none below 34th Street, an area that includes the city’s financial district and many tourist sites.
And there were runners like Josh Maio who felt torn about whether the race should go on.
“It pulls resources and focus away from people in need,” said Maio, who dropped out due to an injury but is coaching about 75 runners.
While he agrees the race is a boost to local businesses, he is uncomfortable with the city devoting so much to an “extracurricular” event.
Top American Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 men’s champion, regards the marathon as “something positive ... because it will be motivation to say, ‘Look what happened, and we’ll put on the race, and we’ll give them a good show.’”
New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said organizers planned to use more private contractors than past years to reduce the strain on city services.
She compared this year’s race to the 2001 marathon, held seven weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as a way to inspire residents and show the world the city’s resilience.
She expects the field will be smaller than the 47,500 who ran last year because some entrants can’t make it to New York, but said so far organizers had received no more cancellations than normal.
Race organizers were rescheduling the elite runners’ flights to get them into New York on schedule.
Meantime, traffic choked city streets as residents tried to return to work. Two of three major airports in New York area re-opened with limited flights and limited commuter rail service resumed.
Utilities say it could be days before power is fully restored in the city and on Long Island.
The course mostly avoids areas hit hardest by flooding. Getting everyone to the start on Staten Island could be the biggest challenge if two usual methods <0x2014> the ferry and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel <0x2014> are still closed. Organizers are working on contingency plans.
Once under way, runners will cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn. The route then winds through the borough and over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. The Queensboro Bridge will bring the runners into Manhattan’s East Side. After a brief swing through the Bronx, they finish in Central Park, which was closed Wednesday. Some 250 mature trees inside the park were felled by the storm.
The 43rd edition of the marathon is set to include three Olympic medalists and the reigning women’s world champion.
Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang won bronze in the Olympic men’s marathon. His challengers include 2011 Chicago Marathon champ Moses Mosop of Kenya and 2010 New York winner Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana won gold and Russia’s Tatyana Arkhipova was third in the women’s race in London. Edna Kiplagat of Kenya won a world title a year earlier.