|Boston GP helmet|
(Editor's Note: This was big step today for the Grand Prix of Boston Powered by LogMeIn. The City of Boston Public Improvement Commission approved petitions from Boston Grand Prix and Massachusetts Convention Center Authority for improvements necessary for the race. These petitions are pending EPA and DEP approval).
The City of Boston granted its first regulatory approval Thursday for an IndyCar race planned for the Seaport over Labor Day weekend.
The unanimous approval by the city’s Public Improvement Commission represented a significant milestone for race organizers.
“It’s a great step in getting the race onto the streets of Boston," said a race spokesman, Harry-Jacques Pierre. “Obviously, we still need to work with other city and state agencies to get other approvals and permits."
The ruling will allow race organizers to construct a 2.2-mile temporary street course around the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The commission took four votes that will allow roadwork on four streets – Congress, D, Fargo, and New Cypher.
Organizers must obtain environmental permits before beginning construction. Last year, Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed an agreement with race organizers to hold the race in 2016, and annually for up to four more years.
“The Public Improvement Commission’s approval of the petitions today are an important first step necessary to continue the dialog and review of the potential impacts of the race," Walsh said in a statement. “I thank all of the members of the public who submitted feedback."
The City Council has scheduled a hearing at 3 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the impact of the Grand Prix of Boston. The public is encouraged to attend and testify.
Before Thursday’s vote, several Seaport residents spoke against the race, urging the commission to defer a decision until environmental permits had been granted.
One resident, Linda Lucas, said her building on Sleeper Street sits on wooden pylons that were damaged by construction of Big Dig tunnels. Lucas, who also raised concerns about rats and other environmental hazards, said her share of building repairs totaled more than $25,000, and said she was worried about damage from the Grand Prix.
“I’m not interested in spending more money because of this race," Lucas said. “I’m opposing this categorically."
Other residents voiced concerns about a negative impact on property values and said the convention center was built on the site of a former junk yard where toxins have never been properly cleaned. Sara McCammond, who spoke on behalf of the Fort Point Neighborhood Association, urged the commission to delay the vote.
“The community process has not been thorough and open enough for an event of this magnitude," McCammond said, adding that the race could disturb toxins around New Cypher Street. “Our greatest concern is the environmental and public safety impact."
Representatives from the group No IndyCar Boston also spoke against the race, as did David Lurie, a lawyer representing the Coalition Against IndyCar Boston.
One resident, Mary Joyce, spoke in support of the race. Others who testified in favor of IndyCar included a race organizer and Armin Mejia of MassTuning, which was described as New England’s largest organization of automotive enthusiasts.
“I see nothing but excitement and enthusiasm for this event, not just for 2016 but for the years to come," Mejia said.
John Allison, a city neighborhood liaison, spoke in favor of the race on behalf of the mayor, noting that organizers have held several public meetings.
“We feel that the Grand Prix has done significant outreach on this event, and we are confident they will continue to do so," Allison said. “We expect the Grand Prix to fully comply with all environmental reviews. The Grand Prix is fully committed to reimbursing the city for all expenses."
After the vote, race opponents vowed to continue their campaign to stop the event. They said they plan to make their case Tuesday to the City Council. The vote by the Public Improvement Commission was only the first step, they said, in a series of regulatory hurdles. Boston Globe