2006-04-28 / Community

Weiner Runs Against Newman In Floyd Bennett Race

Plan To Put Auto Racing Into Gateway Venue
By Howard Schwach

Gentlemen, start your engines! Famous actor Paul Newman is spearheading a push to bring a permanent, winding 3.5-mile grand prix auto-racing track in Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

Newman, who brought his plan to city officials last week, sees an annual three-day race that would bring upwards of 195,000 spectators to the park each year.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents the area and often works with the National Park Service on developing the old Naval Air Station, says that it will happen over his dead body. He wants to run Newman and friends out of town despite the fact that the ambitious project would fund local charities and also the first urban Hole In The Wall Camp. A number of those camps already exist in various parts of the country to support seriously and critically ill children.

"This is a crazy idea, whose time will never come," Weiner said in a prepared statement. "This plan is dead on arrival."

"Putting aside the crushing traffic that such an event would visit on our area, it is simply an inappropriate use of a national park," Weiner added. "In fact, it is illegal."

With Newman at the presentation was Geoffrey Whaling, the coordinator of the North American Motor Sports, the group pushing the plan.

"Newman wants to bring together his three passions - charity, New York City and motor sports," Whaling told city officials.

The proposal envisions a week of charity events leading up to three days of racing that could be in place as early as September of 2007.

Experts say that there are some obvious roadblocks to the project.

Federal guidelines limit attendance at any one event at the park to 10,000, although some events in past years escalated past that number, notably the Guyanese Festival at Fort Tilden that overwhelmed Rockaway two summers ago.

While city officials say they are studying the proposal and have not yet reached a conclusion and National Park officials declined to comment at this early date, Weiner is sure about the fate of the plan.

"There will not be motor racing in Gateway National Park," he said. "I wish Paul Newman the best of luck in his search for a more appropriate site."

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