NEW YORK — Five days before New York hosts its namesake marathon, its public transportation is shut down, its airports closed, its streets flooded and power out in many neighborhoods.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday he expected Sunday’s race to go on as scheduled after superstorm Sandy. Marathon organizers were moving forward with their plans — leaving open the possibility of changes from past years.
“The marathon has always been a special day for New Yorkers as a symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this city,” New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg said in a statement.
“NYRR continues to move ahead with its planning and preparation. We will keep all options open with regard to making any accommodations and adjustments necessary to race day and race weekend events.”
Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the subways were running again. That could mean no trains on race day when the nearly 50,000 runners signed up need to get to the start.
The marathon pours an estimated $340 million into the city each year. But it also requires major support from city departments that are strained by the storm.
“The city is rightfully focused on assessment, restoration and recovery,” Wittenberg said in the statement.
New York’s airports could reopen as early as Wednesday, though cancellations earlier in the week could make it difficult for out-of-town runners to get on flights. Commuter trains and some river crossings that allow people to reach the city remained closed Tuesday, their timetables for reopening also uncertain.
Transporting all the runners to the starting line on Staten Island could be a major challenge, Wittenberg said Monday. About half of entrants take the ferry, which may still be closed because of flooding on both sides. Others take buses through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, also shut down because of flooding.
Nearly 20,000 amateur international runners need to get in the country. Family and friends of runners must somehow find a way to their viewing spots.
Wittenberg said Monday that NYRR had a long list of contingency plans already in place to deal with any obstacles that might arise. The 26.2-mile route through the five boroughs mostly avoids areas hit hardest by flooding.
Wittenberg had insisted Monday that “we have time on our side.”
NYRR holds about 50 events a year and has dealt with issues ranging from heavy snow to lightning to security concerns in the past.
“We’ve been through close to it all,” Wittenberg said.
Organizers expected to reschedule flights to get all the elite athletes to New York in time. Wittenberg hoped that most of the amateur international runners signed up would make it. The hours for number pickup will probably be extended for those who arrive late Saturday.
For runners who can’t get to New York, the deadline to withdraw from the race and guarantee a spot in next year’s event likely will be pushed back from Wednesday to Saturday. Under normal NYRR policy, entry fees won’t be refunded, and runners would have to pay again next year.
The ceremonial finish-line painting scheduled for Wednesday was canceled, along with a news conference Tuesday.
A children’s run Thursday was moved from Central Park to an indoor track, and the pavilion in the park has been taken down for the time being. Wittenberg said generators were in place in key locations to provide electricity.
Extra time is always built into planning, and 700 part-time workers and 8,000 volunteers ensure the course can be set up quickly.
“This is a very challenging time for the people and city of New York,” Wittenberg said in the statement, promising updates on race week plans as more information is known.