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Formula E will race in Brooklyn in 2017

Electric racing comes to NYC

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Formula E is going to race in Brooklyn next summer. The all-electric series will wrap up its third season with races on back-to-back days in July of 2017. Series CEO Alejandro Agag made the announcement today alongside city officials at the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, where the race will take place. Exact dates have yet to be determined.

“Today is one of the biggest days for Formula E,” Agag said. “Many people say that climate change doesn’t exist, or that it is not an immediate worry. We started Formula E because we thought we could do something to help from our little corner of motorsport. Today, the race in New York is a little step in that direction.” 

Half of the 1.21-mile track will loop around the parking lot for the Cruise Ship Terminal, and the other half — two straightaways and a hairpin turn — will run the length of the adjacent Pier 11 building. The track has 13 turns in total, and offers a view of the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, and the south tip of Manhattan. (It will also be one block from the new Tesla showroom.) The course layout is still subject to approval from the FIA, Formula E’s governing body, but as of now it doesn’t overlap with any public streets. Here’s the map:

New York City has been on Formula E’s 2016 / 2017 schedule since it was released in early July, and Agag has talked about bringing the series to the five boroughs since before the first race was run. But the New York date, among others, were still subject to “final administrative authorization.” Both the series and the city insisted today that the races are a done deal.

Formula E is just two seasons old, but its brand of futuristic (and perhaps more importantly, quiet and emissions-free) racing has drawn strong interest from cities around the world in the early going. Marrakech, Hong Kong, Brussels, and Montreal were all added to the season three schedule along with New York. (Montreal’s mayor even flew to the Miami race in season one to court the series.)

All this city-hopping hasn’t been without its troubles. This past season, a race in Moscow was canceled one month before it was supposed to take place because of disputes over road closures. In both Miami and London, Formula E clashed with environmentalists who argued that the series was disrupting local neighborhoods. The fight in London even went up for judicial review, with Formula E winning the right in an out-of-court settlement to continue with the double-header season two finale at Battersea Park on the condition that they be the last races at that location.

Of course, that’s the nature of racing strictly on street circuits. There are many more moving parts and much more red tape involved when you’re building a temporary race track in an urban environment.

Can Formula E succeed where F1 failed?

The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal has been a source of tension in the Red Hook neighborhood since it opened in 2006. The ships that dock there originally had no way to plug into the local electrical power grid, so diesel fumes were prevalent in the area as a result. A years-long solution was finally implemented in April of this year, but the project ran millions of dollars over the original budget. Red Hook is also one of the neighborhoods that was hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.

With that in mind, pulling off a race in New York City would be a coup for the young racing series. Formula One and the FIA spent decades trying to put on a race in New York City, but were never able to pull it off. One was scheduled in the early 1980s, but a location was never finalized — the series evaluated spots in New Jersey and Long Island before the effort was canceled. In 2012, Formula One tried to hold a “Grand Prix of America” in New Jersey, even going so far as driving an F1 car through the Lincoln Tunnel to promote the race. But ugly contract disputes caused multiple postponements, and the idea was thrown out in 2014.

Formula E and the FIA will be investing “millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements” as part of the deal with Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and the city government, according to a statement issued by the mayor’s office. The series has also agreed to hire local workers for the event, partner with small businesses and hotels, offer “discounted or complimentary tickets” to community organizations, and host students from local schools.

“We think there’s also a tremendous opportunity here not to just make sure disruptions are minimized, but to reach out to local community leaders and businesses to make sure they’re involved,” said Maria Torres-Springer, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The New York races will be Formula E’s fourth and fifth races in the United States. Along with Miami in season one, the series has also raced twice in Long Beach, California.