Revenues Would Soar With Nascar

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Whether you’re into auto racing or not (I’m not) one can’t help but notice the different reactions to two proposals to bring professional racing to New York City. Actor Paul Newman wants to bring the Grand Prix to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park and, aside from Rep. Anthony Weiner, the public reaction has been one of excitement. Nascar, on the other hand, has been getting plenty of opposition to its proposed track in the Bloomingdale area of Staten Island.

I’ve never been a fan of auto racing of any kind. Aside from the suspenseful car chase in the film “The French Connection,” the ubiquitous chase scenes in most action films leave me yawning. But I have met quite a few surprising fans of the sport in the New York area. One of my former bowling league partners was an Italian woman in her ’50s who looked forward every year to her family’s trip to Daytona. Another was a co-worker at Air Canada, a lovely elegant young woman who acknowledged to being a Nascar groupie. Their rapturous descriptions of the sporting event always left me somewhat befuddled because I’m not much of a fan of loud noises, unpleasant motor oil smells and the possibility of witnessing a horrific crash.

But it was my brilliant stepson, Bill, who made me realize that my ignorance had a lot to do with my disdain of the sport. I had told him that I couldn’t understand the point of a bunch of cars going round and round in circles. What was the point?

He clicked off a very impressive list to answer my question. “First of all,” he said, “auto racing has led to advancements in tire grip, wear, and safety. For example, the development of the tire that lets you drive limited miles even if the tire is punctured instead of shredding. It has also led to major advancements in braking technology from antilock brakes to longer lasting brake pads; seat-belt advancement, including the five-point harness used in all baby seats today; crumple zones in vehicles, which absorb more of the impact reducing the whiplash effect on drivers involved in crashes, and major advancements in aerodynamics which result in better gas mileage for our vehicles. And that’s just a few.”

Whew. I stood corrected about it being a dumb sport. So how dumb are our local politicians about the prospect of Nascar coming to the Big Apple? I’m not going to name names because I happen to know and like my representatives, but I just don’t understand how shortsighted they can be about the track. All I hear are complaints about the traffic and congestion when the earliest race would be years away. That should be plenty of time to come up with a solution that would satisfy any objection to the racing complex, particularly if International Speedway Corporation is willing to cooperate with the expense.

Richmond County is the fastest growing county in the entire state. Traffic is already pretty awful but still not as bad as in Queens. Even without the Nascar racetrack, the borough’s traffic congestion is likely to increase. How I wish we had community leaders with vision instead of political insecurities. Has anyone considered a monorail from the ferry along Richmond Terrace or any other innovative mass transit solutions? All I hear from the elected officials is “over my dead body,” when it comes to Nascar.

The bottom line to be considered is that the area is going to be developed, whether for housing, a new mall or industry. The tax proceeds derived from the new tenants will be a fraction compared with what Nascar would bring to Staten Island because Nascar brings in huge revenue from across the nation. Richard Nicotra, a local entrepreneur who owns the Hilton Garden Inn, is a very smart man who built his hotel near the Bloomingdale area where the IDC wants to erect the racing track. A Hampton Inn is nearly completed because the smart money knows that Nascar is coming. For heaven’s sake, even the Scientologists will be debuting a red Taurus ” Dianetics” entry this Saturday at the Irwindale Speedway in California.

The Bloomingdale site for the Nascar track in Staten Island is quite vast and mostly undeveloped. Some opponents of the track claim that there would be a negative environmental impact on the wetlands, while proponents insist that the wetlands are just breeding grounds for nasty disease-spreading mosquitoes. This is a legitimate issue that needs exploring, not outright condemnation without the facts.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn is crowded and developed to the max, yet the idea of Paul Newman and the Grand Prix plan is so … romantic. Let’s see now. Newman is a liberal Democrat while most Nascar supporters are Republicans.

Now I get it!


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