NASCAR in Staten Island - No Way

Hey Topspeed,
I keep hearing all this talk of a NASCAR track getting built on Staten Island. Do you think putting a racetrack on Staten Island is a good idea?

Sal A. from Staten Island, New York

Hi Sal,

According to International Speedway Corporation (the folks who want to bring a NASCAR track to Staten Island) - it is a fantastic idea. They claim that their racetrack will create thousands of jobs and pump almost $200 million into the local economy. They also propose that the track will only host three race weekends per year and be available for use by the local community otherwise. They have even drafted plans to deal with the thorny issue of increased traffic congestion that Staten Island residents will face during race weekends. Unfortunately for ISC though, not everyone thinks their idea is so fantastic. A racetrack on Staten Island sounds great in theory but ISC may be underestimating the obstacles they have to face. Let's take a closer look at just a few of the potential problems:

Problem #1 - Businesses should not set up shop where they are not wanted. While ISC has paid for some initial polling that shows local support for their project, you have to wonder how accurate their information really is. Go ahead and talk to your average Staten Island resident and they will give you a negative opinion on the matter. They will tell you that they don’t want NASCAR on Staten Island. They will tell you they don't want the extra traffic and pollution. Even the local racing fans think ISC should stick their proposal up their tailpipe. Numerous Staten Island elected officials also strongly oppose the racetrack proposal. With so much opposition to a NASCAR track on Staten Island, why would ISC want to build there? The conflict with the community can only lead to the manifestation of other problems down the road if the track actually comes to exist.

Problem #2 - ISC has made a commendable effort to address the additional traffic congestion their racetrack would create but their proposed solutions (ferries to shuttle fans and some extra traffic lanes) are unrealistic. Staten Island is a major vehicular gateway to New Jersey and Brooklyn. Weekend traffic on Staten Island's main roads and highways is a nightmare, especially on Sundays. This has always been the case and probably always will be. No one has been able to solve this problem for eons and I don't think ISC has a magical cure either.

Problem #3 - If ISC wants New Yorkers to come to the races, Staten Island is a bad enticement. New Yorkers from the other four boroughs don't venture to Staten Island unless they absolutely have to. I think the same holds true for New Jersey and Connecticut residents. There are many reasons for this phenomenon but I think the commute is one of the biggest factors. I once had a girlfriend on Staten Island and I had to take a train, a ferry and a bus to see her. I sure wouldn't do that to go see a stock car race. I might reconsider though if free hot laps were being offered.

Okay, before all the NASCAR fans start sending me hate mail, I want to make it clear that while I'm a not a big NASCAR fan, I have nothing against ISC. Nor am I completely against their idea. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the France family and their contributions to the sport. I, more than anyone, desperately want to see a racetrack built in New York City. A track in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx would be just fine but what on earth possessed ISC to even consider Staten Island? Did they not want the rest of New York City to come to their races?

If anyone, including ISC, plans to build a racetrack in New York City, it has to be done right and the track has to be accessible to the majority of the population. The racing fan base in New York City is vast and undiscovered. It is larger than most people would believe. The only thing missing is an outlet where all these fans can demonstrate and revel in their passion. Sure, the true enthusiasts among us go to nearby dirt tracks and karting tracks, Lime Rock Park and even Watkins Glen. But if New Yorkers could get to a race as easily as they get to a Yankees game, that kind of accessibility would skyrocket the popularity of auto racing in the Northeast.

Now listen up, and this is for anybody who wants to build a racetrack in New York City, here is my own proposal that I've been pitching for years. If you really want to bring auto racing to New York City without negatively impacting the local community, without causing traffic congestion, without pissing off the neighbors, etc… simply build a racetrack on Governor's Island. Located just a few hundred yards from the southern tip of Manhattan, there are 150 acres of land just waiting to be developed. While New York's government has repeatedly vetoed proposals that would place casinos on the island, I'm sure that a racetrack would be looked upon more favorably.

Governor's Island is only a short ferry ride away from downtown Manhattan, which is close to all major transportation hubs. This includes the NYC Subway, the New Jersey PATH trains, the Holland Tunnel and even the Staten Island Ferry. I'm sure that any racing fan in the Tri-State area willing to visit Manhattan would make the trip to Governor's Island to see a race. Furthermore, to maximize potential profit and gain the largest audience possible, the racetrack should be built as a road course/oval that will accommodate open-wheel race cars and stock cars. Like Indy or Daytona. Now you have the makings of a legendary racing haven that will draw spectators from all over the world. Okay, if anyone decides to pursue my idea of a Governor's Island racetrack, I expect one of the track sections to be named after me. The Topspeed Straight has a nice ring to it.

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