The tens of thousands of runners in the New York City Marathon this weekend will have a clear path through Central Park after workers labored to remove branches and trees downed by a late October snowstorm, park and race officials said Thursday.
Even though the cleanup will continue for a couple more weeks, the park will be ready for Sunday's massive marathon, which winds through the Manhattan park, Central Park Conservancy spokeswoman Dena Libner said. On Thursday, workers were high up in trees using saws to cut branches in danger of falling, and large trucks hauled away tree debris.
NYC Marathon spokesman Richard Finn said city agencies had done a superb job cleaning up after the storm, which dumped about 3 inches of wet, heavy snow in the park.
"All the people stepped up in New York City," he said at Central Park early Thursday afternoon. "The race course is clean. It's ready."
He said race officials were lucky the storm didn't hit on the weekend of the race because it would have caused some "major disruption."
"It would have been a spectacular shock," he said. "It would have been like playing in a blizzard in a football game."
Thousands of trees were damaged — about 1,000 were expected to be lost — during the storm, affecting about 400 acres of mostly the southern end of the park. The storm caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.
Trees as large as 3 to 4 feet across were toppled, with snow weighing down leaves and branches until they gave way.
The marathon's finish line is in Central Park, but the race gets its start at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, with runners crossing first over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn and then traveling through the city's other boroughs.
More than 47,000 people participated in last year's marathon, and many thousands more watched from the sidelines, cheering the runners on as they weaved through the city's neighborhoods.
During a news conference with marathon officials on Wednesday at the finish line, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the event was a "major boon" to the city's economy and called it the "highest-grossing single-day sporting event in New York."
According to marathon organizers, the run is expected to generate $350 million in economic activity; some $10 million in tax revenue will be generated for the city alone.
Bloomberg said the marathon served as a huge opportunity to market the city to the spectators and runners coming from all over the world to watch and participate in it.
"An awful lot of these people come to New York, some for the first time, bring their families in many cases, and they stay for the week," he said. "It really has an enormous impact."
AP correspondent Warren Levinson contributed to this report.