Written by PA2 Ann Marie Gorden
There are a few select events each year that allow foot traffic across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. More than 50,000 people from 130 countries got their chance to cross the bridge as they ran passed the start line of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon.
Coast Guard Sector New York shares a unique history with the New York City Marathon in that the race pre-stages its runners at Fort Wadsworth, which is co-located with the Sector in Staten Island. For 18 years, the Coast Guard has been behind the scenes, working to produce a functioning event and ensuring that every aspect of the start of the race runs smoothly for the athletes, spectators, and volunteers.
The marathon brings approximately $340 million in economic impact to the city, making it the highest-grossing, single-day sporting event in New York. It draws more than 124,000 applicants, two million spectators and 2,000 volunteers. 185 charities were represented by more than 6,500 runners and the marathon alone raised more than $26.2 million for charitable causes.
With heightened risk, Fort Wadsworth was closed to visitors and the Coast Guard, U.S. Park Police, New York Police Department, Fire Department of New York City and the FBI amped up their security forces to maintain vigilance.
For the Coast Guard, the marathon isn’t just a one day event. Mike Di Trani, command security officer at Coast Guard Sector New York spent the last six months mapping out security detail.
“The Coast Guard has a huge part in this,” said Di Trani. “It’s the biggest land-based security operation in the Coast Guard.”
The day before the event, Di Trani was part of a small team that conducted a final security walk-through around each corral and assured every space was closed up to protect government property.
The language barrier challenges fluid communication amid the crowd of anxious runners on marathon day. Situational awareness is key.
Members from the Coast Guard Police Department, Maritime Safety and Security Team New York, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Sector New York and Coast Guard Auxiliarists were on hand to ensure the safety and security of the runners and those working the event.
The course crossed five bridges throughout New York City. The Coast Guard and NYPD provided water security for the bridges as well as escorts for the Staten Island Ferry.
Around 11 a.m., the last group of runners took off over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The Coast Guard spent the remainder of the day making sure Fort Wadsworth was safe to open back up to the public.
At a debrief, Coast Guard crews discussed what worked and how thing could be improved for 2015. The day’s success was a testament to the six months spent putting the safety and security plans in place.