Racing fans applaud Riverhead's approval of 2-day drag racing event
It's full speed ahead for a two-day drag racing event following approval by the Riverhead Town Board.
The race is set to take place next month at a Calverton facility where Grumman used to test F-14s and other military planes.
Racing fans are thrilled by the news. For decades, they have been trying to get either temporary races or a permanent track built. They say the sport draws in thousands of people from all over who will come and spend money at local businesses.
Opponents are concerned because the area is home to the largest remaining grassland area on Long Island. They say it's home to rare birds and animals, and they fear the event will be harmful to the environment.
"There's a whole bunch of bird species that nest in grasslands that you won't find in any other place on Long Island," says John Turner, of Epcal Watch. "It's just coming into bird nesting season then, when they're scheduled in June, so they could not pick a worse two-week period in the entire year to stage this event."
Those in favor of the event say everything will be done safely.
"We're 100% in safety," says John Cozzali, of Long Island Needs a Dragstrip. "We're not going to spoil the ground. You're on a concrete runway that we all know the F-14s and 15s were running on. Noise is not an issue."
The Riverhead Town Board voted unanimously in favor of the event, saying measures were put in place to protect both the property and the animals.
"The particular vendor that's coming here will be setting up concrete barriers. There will also be partitions and fencing. So we're going to keep everyone strictly to our concrete and asphalt areas," says Riverhead Town Councilman Ken Rothwell. "Parking, we'll utilize the taxiways and spectators will be on taxiways and the actual runways themselves."
Cozzali says the United States Motor Sports Association did an economic impact study that showed the event would bring in $17 million a year to the economy in Riverhead and Long Island.
The Riverhead Town Board is also considering eight other racing events for Calverton in July and August.