Long Island Marathon: A Headache for Local Residents

Long Island Marathon
Long Island Marathon (Michael Damm)

It’s like a snow storm in May for the people living in parts of Westbury and Salisbury. They can get out of their homes but they can’t drive anywhere. For them, the running of the Long Island Marathon on Sunday means not being able to run away.

With the road closures, local residents say they feel like prisoners with no way in or out of their community.

In an effort to show them the way, the Press asked Nassau police for a map that could show even one route out of the community during the marathon. A police spokesman sent the Press directions.

Unfortunately it contained streets that were closed. They have not gotten back to the Press with a valid route.

While the same complaints are voiced every year, little has been done to help the residents.

Rich Cardoza, president of the Carmen Community Association, which represents much of the area, told the Press that he is getting complaints all the time.

He said he was told that the runners didn’t like “running at Jones beach because there is no one there to cheer them on. Well hey, who says you have to run 26 miles in a day? You want to exercise, fine, but your right to run shouldn’t impede my right to go to church.”

“Everybody is worried about everybody else’s rights but people have the right here to go to church and to go out,” Cardoza continued. St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church is shut down for about two hours. That is a big church.”

The closures affect more than churches and recreation. Small businesses in the area of the closures are affected as well.

Alphonse Lentz III, Owner of B & G Deli on Carmen Ave., (he said he is also the dishwasher, painter, bookkeeper, and general handyman,) has been complaining for years with nothing to show for it. He said the politicians have told him the Marathon is “written in stone and there is nothing I can do.”

And that stone is crushing down on him. After losing 99 percent of his Sunday business each year during Marathon Sunday, this year he decided to just close for the day. He said he is tired of being annoyed and frustrated.

“You just can’t get out of the neighborhood. It is land locked. It is very frustrating and just not fair,” he said, adding “It is not fair to all the local merchants. I work 7 days a week 95 hours a week. My only two days off are Christmas and Thanksgiving.” He also employs three people, who he tells the Press, will not be getting paid Sunday.

The Westbury Fire Department has been forced to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of the residents as well. According to Chief Doug Ingram, they plan to set up crews at three locations in the area because of the “difficulty getting around. We had an incidence one year where members couldn’t respond to a call. Now they have to spend hours standing by.”

Ingram expressed the frustration many in the area share.

“Every year it is the same neighborhood that is totally inconvenienced. It is not just the fire department it is the local residents,” he said. “Why can’t they have it somewhere else one or twice, share the wealth type of thing?”

With thousands of runners from all over the tri-state area expected to take part in the annual event, there are many who argue an inconvenience to one community pales in comparison to the magnitude of the event. They say revenue will be brought into other parts of the county.

And then there are the runners, who spend months training for the grueling race.

Amanda O’Rourke has spent the last 14 years running in the marathon. She also grew up in the area that is closed off by the marathon.

“For me it is like coming back home—that is how welcoming the race is,” she said, adding that, “A huge part of achieving your goal is feeling safe in that all the cars are off the road as well as having the support of the local spectators. It takes more than just the physical endurance to get through that number of miles.”

O’Rourke said changing the location of street closures every year would hurt runners who have become accustomed to the course.

“I think if they did it every five years or so runners wouldn’t mind as much.”

Lentz, the business owner, said based on his own frustrations and those of his customers, he intends to start a petition this Monday.

“Rights are usually a two way Street,” Cardozo said, citing a well bandied quote, “the right to stretch my arm should end before your nose.”

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