Boston’s 2016 IndyCar race plan raises cost, noise concerns

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BOSTON – Mayor Marty Walsh’s bid to host a Labor Day weekend IndyCar race next year ran into some sharp curves today as reports surfaced suggesting taxpayer money will be needed to stage the three-day Grand Prix of Boston, while some neighborhood residents asserted that the race is illegal.

The Boston Herald reported that race organizers have met with state and other so-called quasi-public agencies to “hammer out contracts to tap public resources” to help pay for the event, planned in South Boston’s Seaport District.

Documents show that the deal Walsh cut with race organizers in May included language barring the city from absorbing any costs associated with the event:

“Under no circumstances shall the city be liable for any costs or expenses incurred by (Grand Prix of Boston) in any way related to or connected with the race event unless specifically provided for in this agreement. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, all obligations of (Grand Prix of Boston) pursuant to this agreement shall be performed by (Grand Prix of Boston) at its sole cost and expense unless this agreement specifically provides otherwise.”

(Read the full agreement here)

But the Herald report says that the contracts currently being negotiated are different from the agreement Walsh signed in May. Walsh told the tabloid that he “expects” the city to get reimbursed for any outstanding costs.

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to Walsh and Mark Perrone, the Grand Prix of Boston chief executive, the Seaport Lofts Condo Association outlines a bevy of race concerns and questions how city officials could have approved holding the race without seeking residents’ input.

The letter, posted by Politico’s Massachusetts-focused page, was written by Boston attorney David E. Lurie. Lurie’s 17-page missive asserts that the public was “stonewalled” and left out of the planning process as officials conducted secret meetings. Lurie also said that race and city officials have ignored meeting invitations from the condo association, whose building is at 437 D St., near the convention center and the Westin hotel. D Street is one of the roads to be used for the race.

Lurie also says that the din of unmuffled engines in the neighborhood on race days will reach about 140 decibels, “about the same level as the noise on the deck of an aircraft carrier.” Presumably he meant when planes are taking off or landing.

In addition, Lurie points out that the 2.25-mile circuit, laid out on public roads, will “deprive” residents from accessing D Street. He noted the effect that will have on Lofts occupants and their visitors who may need to use the street:

“They will be unable to drive or walk on it to get to any destination for at least three days each year, due both to the race itself and to the ancillary events and crowds,” Lurie wrote, referring to the city’s plan to host the race annually up until at least 2020.

Lurie alleges that a combination of blocking access to public ways, holding meetings in secret without public process, violating city noise ordinances and engaging in “illegal street racing” equates to hosting an unlawful event.

(The full copy of Lurie’s letter can be read here)

Criticism over the planned race comes months after Boston ditched its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics amid concerns that taxpayers would be on the hook for projected cost overruns of millions of dollars.

Perrone, an Ipswich native and longtime racing executive, told the Boston Globe in May that the Seaport race would be a “litmus test for the City of Boston and its Olympic bid.”

Walsh bristled when asked to comment on comparisons being made between the planned IndyCar race and the city’s failed Olympic bid.

“IndyCar is not the Olympics,” Walsh told WCVB News. “It is our opportunity to have over 250,000 people come into the city, spend money in the restaurants, stay in the hotels and to have IndyCar in the city.

“It’s no different than bringing the Tall Ships in.”