Give Boston’s IndyCar race a green flag (Update)

UPDATE

David Lurie won't give up until the Boston GP is dead
David Lurie won't give up until the Boston GP is dead

The anti-Boston GP group wrote this letter in response to the Boston Globe's editorial:

Your editorial in favor of the proposed IndyCar race ("Give IndyCar the green flag," March 20) gave short shrift to the harms that it would inflict on those who live on the public roads where it will take place, in the Seaport, Fort Point, and South Boston neighborhoods: 140 decibels of noise, an illegal level that can cause permanent hearing loss; construction for six months each year for the next five years; grinding, widening, and paving of roads; removal of medians, light poles, and trees; welding down of manhole covers; placement of 10,000-pound concrete barriers and 14-foot-high metal fencing in front of our homes; disturbance of PCB-filled areas that have never been remediated; so-called run-out lanes ending a few feet from our children's playgrounds; storage of mountains of concrete barriers by Boston Harbor, in violation of environmental laws; traffic and parking nightmares; disruption of public transportation; and diversion of trucks carrying hazardous waste onto our streets.

Labor Day weekend in the Seaport is not a slow period. We should know — we live here. There is no evidence that the race will generate economic benefits that outweigh its very substantial costs to Boston.

The public has NOT had the opportunity to be involved in decisions about the race. Mayor Walsh signed a five-year agreement without reaching out to the public, and he and Governor Baker have not responded to our letters. Planning meetings are not open to the public. The powers that be want everyone to believe that the race is a done deal.

The race track would run over one of the state's major toxic waste sites. Yet the race promoter has refused to submit an Environmental Notification Form, which would begin state environmental review. We hope and trust that state environmental officials will require that the project be submitted for a transparent review, before construction begins. We also hope and trust that the Boston Public Improvement Commission will fulfill its duties at the March 31 public hearing to make sure that all construction for the race is safe and for the benefit of city residents, not just in service of what happens to suit the needs of politically connected for-profit promoters.

Larry Bishoff, Felicity Lingle – Cochairs
David Lurie – Counsel
Coalition Against IndyCar Boston

03/20/16 The Labor Day weekend forecast calls for high-velocity action, with roaring 700-horsepower engines, squealing brakes, and swarming crowds. Start your engines. The IndyCar race and related events scheduled for Sept. 2-4 in the Seaport District promise the kind of spectacle Boston's old guard would have fled from in fifth gear.

Consider that the centerpiece will be a 2.2-mile course that can handle cars zooming at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour. Not exactly a laid-back holiday weekend on the waterfront. While some skeptics remain loudly opposed, city and state agencies have for months been working closely with the race's organizers to ensure that the first-ever Grand Prix of Boston is entertaining and safe, without a single taxpayer dollar being put at risk. If the planning pans out, the race will provide a burst of excitement — as well as a financial boost — to offset the malaise that typically descends at summer's end. But before organizers get the green flag, they must gain approvals and permits related to construction, traffic, public safety, alcohol sales, security, and other matters — a checklist that should call attention to any serious flaws in need of fixing.

The race, which is being privately financed at an undisclosed cost, is part of the popular Verizon IndyCar circuit. By the time the professional drivers pull into town, they already will have made stops in Detroit, Indianapolis, Toronto, and other locations. Organizers of the Boston event began selling tickets last week, and say about 22,000 were bought almost immediately. They estimate 170,000 people will attend one or all of the three days, which also will feature musical performances, beer gardens, a "family fun zone," fireworks, and a job fair for veterans. The race promoters hope to make the Grand Prix of Boston an annual happening over the next five years.

That depends on how smoothly things go in September. Because multiple jurisdictions are involved — due to the course geography — the race faces many layers of scrutiny, including from the City of Boston, the state Department of Transportation, Massport, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, and the United States Postal Service. In addition, the promoters have submitted an application to the Boston Public Improvements Commission, which regulates rights of way. That board has scheduled a March 31 public hearing on the matter.

No doubt, residents and businesses in the Seaport neighborhood will be inconvenienced, not just during the festivities, but periodically over several months before and afterward. It's up to the city to regulate the activity, and to minimize disruption. Creating a racetrack requires significant — mostly temporary — alterations of the built landscape, including road repaving and widening, the removal of median strips and lamposts, and the installation of fencing. Some of that work must start months prior to the race, but will be done late at night, according to Pat Brophy, the city's chief of operations.

"It's not going to be 24 hours of nonstop construction every day," he says. In others words: no Big Dig. Brophy also notes that the city is comfortable with staging large events, from the Boston Marathon to tall ships visits to the Democratic National Convention. According to a letter of intent it signed with the city, state, convention center, Massport, and the MBTA, Boston Grand Prix is responsible for restoring everything to pre-race condition "or better" by mid-November. "The streets are going to be put back the way we want them," says Brophy. To guarantee that, race organizers are required to put up an irrevocable line of credit to cover any unanticipated post-race expenses.

None of this satisfies critics represented by a group called the Coalition Against IndyCar Boston, which appears to represent a relatively small number of residents who live near the race site. Organizers are "just going to say whatever is necessary to get their way," says Larry Bishoff, cochairman of the coalition and a Fort Point resident.

David Lurie, an attorney representing the group, calls the race "an inside deal from the beginning."

The coalition says organizers, in cahoots with city officials, have "bypassed all open process," downplaying the headaches involved in staging a motor race on urban streets, while ignoring environmental and safety issues. First off, says Lurie, "It's a crime to have a street race on a public road." Well, yes, unless you're granted permission.Beyond that objection, the coalition says noise levels could damage people's hearing, that it will be impossible to get around, and that race cars could stir up hazardous materials buried behind the convention center. The group is demanding an environmental review, and has not ruled out going to court to try to bring the race to a screeching halt.

Contrary to opponents' claims, however, race organizers have connected with Seaport residents and others on a regular basis. They've appointed a community liaison who has gone door-to-door. In addition, they've held dozens of public forums and smaller community meetings, reaching out to groups that include the Fort Point Neighborhood Association, the Fort Point Arts Community, and the City of Boston Event Advisory Group.

City officials also have been willing to listen and react. "If there's a legitimate complaint, we want to address it," says Brophy. The city and representatives from state agencies are holding biweekly meetings with the race's promoters to monitor progress. About 50 people attended the last session.

IndyCar, says Lurie, has failed in other places, including Baltimore, and isn't something Boston needs. It's better suited for "tough cities," like Long Beach, Calif., and St. Petersburg, Fla., he insists, or the vast space at the former Naval Air Station in Weymouth. It's true that Boston doesn't need to host the race. But Boston is tough enough — and well-equipped — to do so. Boston Globe Editorial

Leave a Reply