Seaport group wants Boston to scrap its planned IndyCar race

Boston's IndyCar race never took off, and is now struggling to refund customers.
IndyCar racing is scheduled to come to Boston. –Getty Images

Residents at a Seaport condo building want Boston to nix a planned IndyCar race in the neighborhood next Labor Day weekend, and sent a letter to Mayor Marty Walsh Tuesday detailing their problems with the event.

The letter from the law firm Lurie, Lent & Freideman on behalf of the Seaport Lofts Condominium Association is also addressed to Grand Prix of Boston CEO Mark Perrone. It argues against the race series on several fronts, including: a lack of public input or meetings prior to the announcement of the race; concerns about noise, traffic, safety, the environment, and access to the condo building; legal claims arguing state law bars street racing and that the use of the roadways should have been put out to public bid; the possibility that the city will be on the hook to pick up some related costs; and more.

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The letter calls on the city and Grand Prix to cancel the race, move the race course, and meet with residents to discuss mitigation of the race’s impact on the neighborhood. The letter says Grand Prix has “utterly failed to adequately answer the residents’ questions,’’ and that the city did not “send a representative to a meeting’’ held at the condo building.

Kate Norton, a spokeswoman for Grand Prix of Boston and a former Walsh spokeswoman, said in a statement that the race organizers have sought to be open with residents.

“We’ve met with the residents of the Seaport Lofts multiple times, and have provided extensive information including the track layouts, details of related events beyond the race itself, the associated process with the city and state, and a broad range of other information. … We’ve answered every question at every juncture to the best of our ability, and I’m honestly shocked at any allegation to the contrary,’’ she said.

The mayor’s office did not immediately comment on the letter, but spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin said the city remains supportive of the holiday weekend plan.

“We will review the letter when it is received by the mayor’s office,’’ McGilpin said in a statement. “We continue to be confident that this will be a great event for the city of Boston, bringing fans and visitors to our hotels, restaurants and shops on what is typically a quiet weekend.’’

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The city announced the three-day, Grand Prix series in May. The first Grand Prix is scheduled for Sept. 2-4, 2016.

The route will run along D Street, Fargo Street, Congress Street, South Boston Bypass Road, and Cypher Street. It would go right by the condo building, which is located on the corner of D and Fargo streets.

Some of the concerns in the letter call to mind the loud civic outcry against another, albeit much larger, multi-day sporting festival plan—the city’s failed Olympic bid. The bid for the 2024 games was undone by public opposition that was fueled by a wide variety of concerns, including public costs.

On the costs front, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told The Boston Herald Monday that “anything we use we expect to get reimbursed.’’

The letter from the condo association argues the city could wind up on the hook for emergency and security cost overruns. It also says the city will bear the costs to prepare the roads for the race. The five-year contract between the city and Grand Prix says Grand Prix must cover security costs, invoiced in advance of the race series and based on the costs of “similar events in the city.’’ The contract requires the city to modify raised intersections on the course to “allow for a smooth transition for racing vehicles’’ and “weld down … all manhole covers within the race circuit.’’

Another element of the contract stipulates that the city will handle the costs for “coordinating with neighborhood groups, residents within the race area and/or other affected individuals.’’ Considering the letter, the city may want to get cracking on that with the condo group sooner than later.

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The rise of the Seaport:

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