By Mack Hogan, news staff
IndyCar, an American auto racing association, chose Boston to host a Grand Prix because it is “the ultimate backdrop for an epic weekend of family-friendly, community-oriented attractions,” according to the IndyCar Boston website.
The mayor’s office, which signed a letter of intent with the Grand Prix of Boston and several Massachusetts state agencies to host the event between Sept. 2 and Sept. 4, is moving forward with IndyCar Boston. Proponents argue the race’s opponents are a vocal but extremely small portion of residents.
“IndyCar has never seen this level of enthusiasm for a Grand Prix in terms of sponsors and support across the city,” Harry-Jacques Pierre, associate vice president of the public relations firm representing the Grand Prix, said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of local organizations are partnering with us, like the Greater Boston Food Bank, to raise funds for them as well.”
Opponents of the plan, however, cite noise and traffic interruptions as key issues. The race itself and the nighttime construction necessary to bring road quality up to racing standards will generate significant noise, according to the Coalition Against IndyCar Boston, the chief opposition organization.
“People in the Seaport have put up for a long time with disruptive construction, but have done so with the expectation of great results – which have come to pass,” spokesperson Laurence Bishoff said in a statement on behalf of the coalition. “This race brings only the expectation of future disruption with no tangible benefit. It has no place in the Seaport.”
In addition to noise, opponents of the race are citing the environmental concerns surrounding the construction necessary to make the Grand Prix happen. Not only would the race itself generate considerable emissions, they argue, but building around Cypher Street could pose a threat to a hazardous material site.
“There was a PCB [polychlorinated byphenyl] dump site that was capped around the ’70s on Cypher Street, and some are worried that digging around that could cause leaks, but other than that, it’s mainly concerns about noise and traffic,” Nicole Card, freshman environmental science major, said.
While this particular site has caused controversy, supporters of the Grand Prix say that concerns surrounding the race have only tightened scrutiny by Massachusetts state agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). While the request by opponents to have a full environmental review carried out by the state is still pending, IndyCar Boston insists that race construction is being watched closely and that the concerns regarding the environment are overstated.
“The ultimate decision over environmental concerns lies with [Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act] (MEPA),” Pierre said. “The state will determine whether there will be negative environmental impacts. We don’t foresee that being a problem.”
In exchange for using the streets and altering traffic patterns, the preliminary agreement between the city and the Grand Prix of Boston has the organization covering all costs associated with the event. Furthermore, the Grand Prix of Boston estimates between 100,000 and 150,000 people will visit Boston for the race, generating income for businesses and therefore tax revenue for the city.
“The environmental concerns may be overstated,” Sean Cooney, third-year mechanical engineering major and suspension lead of Northeastern Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) team, said. “I think there will be an impact, and it may be annoying to have to deal with different traffic and walking routes, but I think it is an interesting thing to have in our city. It seems like it’ll bring a large amount of people to the area and our businesses.”
The City of Boston has continued moving forward with the Grand Prix after cancelling plans for the Olympics based on similar objections to those raised against the competition. With petitions in favor of the race garnering over 1,000 signatures and an opposition petition gaining slightly below 150 signatures, opposition groups have yet to mobilize the support needed to prevent the Grand Prix of Boston this year.
“The question is, would it really attract that many people?” freshman psychology and computer science major Anthony Dominianni, said. “The average citizen doesn’t really care about a Grand Prix. A small following definitely exists, but I’m not sure whether it will be worth it.”
Photo courtesy IndyCar Boston