Thoughts on a race in Jersey City

I have now had a couple of hours to have a think and do a bit more research on the Liberty State Park proposal and I think it is a brilliant idea. Obviously as a racing fan I would, but I would like to explain why I think it is such a good idea for those of you who are not fans and who may believe that a park should be left as a park. It is true that there is a 36-acre Natural Area at the southern end of the park. This is mainly salt marsh and is one of the few remaining pieces of tidal marsh on the Hudsun River. This is, however, slightly contrived as there is a self-guided nature path through the middle of it. This will not be affected by a three-day race meeting any more than it would be by a rock concert or an air race.

The park has a variety of recreational uses for walking, jogging, biking or rollerblading. With a Formula 1 race track it will have an even better path for such activities with more space for all concerned. There will still be all the original facilities but an F1 track will add to the possibilities. If one studies what happened in Melbourne it is clear that Albert Park is a far better environment now than it was before the Grand Prix. If you talk to the people of Melbourne it is hard to find anyone who would argue that case, although the Save Albert Park group continues to complain each year, although it has to be said that the thrust of their arguments these days have nothing to do with the park, but rather concentrate on what the race costs the city. It is a largely irrelevant body as people can see for themselves what has been achieved.

The Liberty States Park is a child of the post-industrial era. Before the park was created in the 1970s it was a wasteland left behind as industry contracted and the railways downsized. There is a clear reminder of that at the north end of the park where there is the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, once the start of the journey west for millions of immigrants who arrived at nearby Ellis Island. The new three-story, Victorian-style station opened in 1889 and was originally where travellers from the west caught the ferry to New York. Today there is a two-mile promenade, called Liberty Walk, along the shoreline on what used to be railway land. This provides visitors with a sweeping view of the Hudson River. The western portion of the park is dominated by the Liberty Science Center, which is designed to show how science and technology integrate into normal life. There is also the country’s largest IMAX dome theatre. There is also a freeway and a railway line. The centre of the park is currently closed off to public access and has been left to grow wild. The plan for the F1 seems to be to leave this largely untouched.

The key point in all of this is that this is not a park with generations of tradition. It is a new park in which urban dwellers from New York can enjoy some space and a great view. It is a venue for entertainments and a Grand Prix would be just another such event to help the economy of the area and to provide funding to improve the park. In Melbourne Albert Park was given new sporting facilities when the F1 track was built, not only new ovals and playing fields but also permanent buildings. A race promoter could put up a temporary structure every year for the pits and race control, as they used to do in Adelaide but that meant four month of construction work a year and recurring costs. Instead engineers designed multi-use facilities which could be converted for other activities when the race was not happening. The Albert Park garages consist of six buildings which are converted for use for indoor games, notably basketball. When F1 comes to town a suspended flooring system is inserted and the mezzanine level created becomes a hospitality unit, while the area below becomes the garages. An additional building, which is used for the media and race control during the Grand Prix, provides community meeting rooms for the rest of the year. The pitlane is used for parking. In Australia the barriers, bridges and grandstands are removed and stored so that the park quickly returns to its normal usage for 10 months of the year.

The added bonus is that it will raise awareness of Jersey City as a destination and will bring more people to the area from New York and make it a little more glamorous. At the moment New Jersey has a pretty poor image. The so-called Garden State is best known for its waste dumps, smells and corruption. It has achieved worldwide “fame” thanks to the fictional HBO television drama series, The Sopranos, about a crime boss operating in the area. Giving New Jersey a better image will boost businesses on the Jersey side of the Hudson, fill hotel rooms and drive new business. It will give Formula 1 a great place to make an impression on the American market.

From where I sit, it seems to be a win-win situation if the money can be found to pay the bills. It is the kind of venue that should attract corporate advertising and a great deal of hospitality. In the real estate world they say that there are only three things that are important: location, location, location.

This is the perfect location.

Yes, there will be one noisy weekend a year but New York is hardly a calm or quiet place – even in the park. If it is handled well the event can become a festival so that everyone involved enjoys the experience. Melbourne is the favourite F1 track for most of the Grand Prix circus. New York could surpass that…

54 thoughts on “Thoughts on a race in Jersey City

  1. Couldn’t agree more with you Joe. As an Adelaidean I’d be more than happy to rebuke any disgruntled New York or Jersey resident who couldn’t appreciate the good an F1 event would do, no matter how scary they may be!

  2. I tell you what might work against it: our current mayor, Bloomberg is on a campaign to rid NYC of cars ( to leave more space for his chauffeur driven limo of course ) . Of course Liberty Park is in Jersey but if you are going to call it New York GP he’ll have a say. In the current fiscal climate, especially in New Jersey where a governor got elected on a budget slashing platform I don’t see a big capital expenditure much less the state of NJ paying Bernie his fee for a GP.

    The fee might be covered by corporate, but they would demand, naming rights for the even, does F1 allow that? The Patron Tequila Grand Prix of New York?

    Personally I vote “hell yes” and leave it up for track days too!

    1. AC,

      Yes, Formula 1 does have naming rights. It is just that not all the races have sold their title sponsorships.

  3. I particularly like the last paragraph about the noise implications or lack of same. The more I read of your article, Joe, the more excited I got about New York maybe getting a Grand Prix. How about it, Bernie and co. ?

  4. If you can’t drive around Manhattan, drive around Jersey.

    I think it is a good idea. Develop that piece of land and make it shiny and pretty.

  5. The Taylor Pork Roll Grand Prix of New Joisey?

    I live ~90 mins away so I’m stoked at the news, however Jersey City is a dump.

  6. I’d argue that you have a history of overemphasizing the positive impact of F1 events, while purposefully misrepresenting it’s downsides (i.e. having wildlife interrupted by a 3-day-event, then later conceding that Albert park is a construction site for weeks before and after the actual race.)

    But it’s moot anyways, cause there’s, thankfully, no funding for this idea in New Jersey.

    The only downside to that, really, is that there wont be a ‘The US Grand Prix at The Jersey Shore’ anytime soon.

    1. Mark Boudreau

      Yes it would, but so what? I do not believe that Tony George owns the right to anything. I bet that deal died with the contract.

  7. one needs only to look at the park on a map to see that without destroying and rebuilding the entire park that racing there is completely impractical:

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=40.702505,-74.048538&spn=0.028956,0.063343&t=h&z=14

    there are few roads, few facilities, and little space to build them

    as a new yorker i would like to have this proposal make sense, but i can’t see it.

    the state of new jersey is broke, the city of new york is broke, and the state of new york is broke. government-funded programs from transit to education are being slashed, so rebuilding a park for one race a year doesn’t seem like a proposal that anyone will be interested in.

    yes, the views of lower manhattan are lovely, but i just don’t see this as making any sense at all.

  8. What about this night-race thing? If it’s bracketted with the Canadian GP they would need about a 9:00 pm start for it to look like an actual night race — whoch means 2am UK and 3am Europe — and early Monday morning in Asia. Surely the TV timing would scupper that concept.

  9. Would I love to see this happen? Hell yes. Will it happen? Hell no sadly. The state or city well not pony up the money needed to make this happen. New Jersey isn’t Europe, Asia, or the oil rich Middle East. The public isn’t in the mood for spending their tax money to benefit a wealthy few. The time of public money paying for private stadiums have pasted, and this will be looked at as a private enterprise. And add in Bernie’s automatic increase in his fee to hold the race from year to year, which should be based on the race making money, I just don’t see this happening.

  10. This will be quite an uphill battle. They could just as easily find some landfill somewhere in NJ and pave the thing over to make a track with no fuss. The proposal just sounds bad in headline form: “Bernie Ecclestone targeting STATE PARK WITH FRAGILE MARSHLANDS to build race track,” particularly when tickets will undoubtedly be crazy expensive.

    The Park supporters will fight this to the death:

    Click to access Mayor_Healy_letter_No_LSP_Grand_Prix_race_track.pdf

    1. Mark

      Perhaps they will, but then so did the protesters in Albert Park – and one or two of them are still alive.

  11. I think the first thing would be to do a check of the current financial situation of New Jersey City. Then it might become clear how this might be funded.
    A further thought is that five year deals only mean a bigger payoff when the contract is canceled.
    This will not fly, sorry, but there are too many road blocks to such an event, not the least of which is CVC, Bernie, and its financial demands
    I am left wondering how Silverstone must feel about the work they are having to do to keep a Brit GP and here comes a temporary GP that wants a cheap deal!
    Oh well, what’s next?

  12. As a resident of Jersey City and about a mile from the park, I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s going to be an uphill climb however.

  13. when the gp first came to Melb.. a new set of laws were inacted to allow the race. it also helped that Ron Walker was a mate of Bernie. Albert park was a waste land before the GP.. as joe has stated in this Blog. i would bet that Bernie already has a deal. and that he may be the promoter with tony George.. laws can be changed .. governments listen to anybody who has money to spend.. on depressed areas. i would put money on it that they the blueprint of the Melb GPis being put forward as the right enviroment to how to host a gp…

  14. Spot on Joe – add to your comments that transportation in and out of the Liberty area is fantastic by car, rail, and ferry. This is THE place for F1 to be in the United States, and it’s the reason why I immediately identified it as the site Bernie had in mind when the rumors were first circulating.

    Both sides stand to gain from this event; let’s hope they get it right like their counterparts down under…

    1. Jonathan,

      We will hold you to that. Please advise a suitable location for the ceremony. Hmmm.. I wonder… Can I just check in advance that you have a right leg to cut out.

  15. Could not disagree with you more on the F1 track location in LSP (Liberty State Park). I am a F1 fan (go Kubica, as you can probably figure out from my handle…), and I’ve lived in Jersey City for 30 years. LSP is equally unsuitable for a race track as is NYC’s Central Park. The whole idea is so absurd that it seems surreal. LSP is an oasis of peace and nature, and you want to bring the F1 circus in there? Build a concrete and asphalt track? Are you for real? Yes, JC is broke, poor and corrupt, but that does not mean that we are saps and will latch onto any cockamamie scheme for LSP, which may be THE ONLY thing Jersey City has going for it. Instead, I’d respectfully suggest a F1 street race in Downtown Jersey City, where potholes are bigger than the F1 cars. I’d pay to see that race.
    NO to F1 in Liberty State Park!

  16. It seems like a great idea. I visited Albert Park last summer and it’s not intrusive, the track is just a road around the park for people to cycle and run on. Unless you walked down the pit straight it’s very difficult to notice it’s a race track.

    Is there any indication where the money will come from and will Bernie put less financial pressure on a New York GP?

  17. Sorry if I am overly cynical, but I won’t believe it till I see the money.

    Knowing that the economy in that state and all the budget problems they are having in Trenton, I don’t see where they will get the money to build Bernie’s pleasure palace. They are already tapped out from recent sporting complex and football stadium.

    If it does happen… good for F1. I still wish it was Long Beach, but oh well.

  18. NJ a bad name?? come on (haha).. I have to say that LSP is a great park, and it seems like a good idea. I have many fond memories of the place growing up there. My whole family is from Jersey City, it was a great place, then went to hell, but it is as you say, coming around..

    I am all for the race being held there.. I think it would be a great deal, for the city, people, and park (it is wildly underutilized.) and it would piss of Bloomberg.. just cause its in Jersey..

    Lastly,

    as and Italian American from Jersey, with a family that owns a Waste oil (petroleum products) recycling business.. I will have ask that we leave the damn Sopranos out of this!

    Ahh who am I kidding … the crowd will be great, fresh mozzarella and roasted pepper sandwiches, with greased back hair.. tank tops, lots of gold and a girl on each arm with a “jersey crimp” haircut.. and everyone screaming.. ohhhhhhh….

    Oh I must say though….. the traffic will SUCK! I don’t care how much mass transit there is … one way in and one way out… And that way also leads to the Holland Tunnel. For those of you that don’t know it.. 8 lanes merge into 2…. need I say more..

    Wen can I buy tickets!

    When can I buy tickets??

  19. The problem with all of this is that you obviously don’t know the location very well. Here is what happened when the golf course next to the park was host to the PGA championship. Everyone stayed in NYC and took the ferry over, or drove in and out for the day. The benefit for JC itself was minimal, but it bore the cost of additional traffic etc.

    In the past the park has been used for large concerts etc, and most won’t mind the track as there is a lot of space, but JC was proposing to foot the bill for the track and I can’t see how that makes sense considering that this is a State Park, (not run by JC) and in the past events there have greatly benefited NYC and not JC.

    Not a bad venue, but a poor proposal as it stands for JC.

  20. This is indeed a completely fantastic idea, when I lived there used to run along the waterfront daily and it beats living within NYC hands down if you prefer nature rather than noise. The location is just perfect, easily accessible by subway to NYC, Newark airport and anywhere in Jersey/PA/NY/CT by train. The obstacles are trees that need to be cut to widen the road and I guess local residents. The immediate area north of the park close to the Hudson have some nice residential and office areas with a few hotels, but most visitors would probably still stay in NYC as there Jersey City itself is a bit less desirable once you exit from the wrong side of the park, or maybe this can be the catalyst for change. It looks you might get glimpse of NYC skyline/Statue of Liberty on one stretch while part of it would wind thru the forest, a bit like the old Hockenheim, really wish this happens and like you say Joe this has all the potential to be a great success.

  21. Joe,

    I would submit that F1 would be better served by great racing, as opposed to great proximity to world class entertainment. You will not convince Americans that F1 is a great form of motor racing unless they see truly great racing. This comes out of a real belief that F1 needs to grow the brand by highlighting action, not antics.

    Scott Bloom

  22. As a resident of NJ I think this would be great. It would be a much shorter drive than the 10 hour one I took a few years ago to Indy only watch 6 cars drive around that awful track.

    No thanks.

  23. Nearly everything about this makes a great deal of sense. Everything except holding the race at night.

    New York City can have very cold evenings well into spring and fall, suggesting any night race would very likely be planned for summer proper. In summer, the sun doesn’t set until 8pm to 9pm. Given that the US east coast is 6 hours behind CET, if Bernie wants to see the lights of NYC, the race start time on the European Continent will be 0200 or later. This could be shifted a bit, starting the race in dusk and ending in darkness, but that would only buy an hour or so.

    Consider the prospect of Bernie finally getting a hugely high profile NYC race, even spending his own money to build out the facilities, then starting the event at 0200 CET? I cannot imagine.

    Then there’s the business of which day to hold a night race. All F1 races are held on Sunday without exception, yet I cannot believe the event described would run on a Sunday night. NASCAR holds its night races on Saturday nights, and for good reason. Fans travel long distances to reach these events and most have to be back at work on Monday. Holding the race on Saturday gives these fans a full day to return home. Further, Sunday is the biggest TV night in the US, people stay home on Sunday nights. Most sporting events dare not compete in that time frame.

    Perhaps the qualifying sessions could be held on Saturday night, but if F1 is not going to abandon tradition and move the big event to Saturday, I can only imagine the race proper being held on Sunday, mid day.

  24. No one seems to be addressing the cost issue…who is going to pay to build the track and who is going to pay Bernie’s fees? Perhaps some government money could be found to build the track, but I would find it very hard to believe any US government entity is going to pay Bernie’s fees when taxpayers discover their money is going to line some investment company’s pockets.

  25. I have read all three posts on this subject and it makes no sense whatever to me. Bernie has talked about a New York race forever but a race on a wasteland in New Jersey with a view of New York? Seriously?

    Despite speculation elsewhere there is no way Bernie is going to fund anything. Bernie takes money out of F1 he doesn’t put money into it.

    A night race in the USA is nonsensical. I know some people have been suckered by the glitzy view in Singapore and ignore the fact that the track is as bad as Valencia but to try and do the same in a time zone where your main market is asleep and has to get up for work the following morning is insane. Of course the race could be on the Saturday night but I just can’t see a night race in that time zone working.

    When the idea of a New York race was discussed before Joe you were totally dismissive of it quoting among other things hotel occupancy rates. Surely all the problems you saw before still apply.

    For me this looks like a typical Bernie diversion to put presssure on someone else (Indy?) to put their hand in their pocket.

  26. Hi Joe, I guess “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” has not reached French television yet which is why you are so positive above 🙂
    Seriously I agree with all of that but the idea will take a lot of selling and if it is to be in this area then I don’t think it will happen for at least a few more years possibly more.
    Unless we talk David Letterman in to running for mayor. Then as far as motorsport goes the world is your oyster.

  27. A Google search of the 2010 New Jersey City budget shows that “IN TOTAL” the budget for the city, for everything, is $509.9 million dollars.
    In other words, the whole city budget would just about cover the cost of a F1 race.
    Sorry guy’s, but this is one place that a F1 race is not happening.
    Next.

  28. use a oval. so that f1 can demostrate to americans what really fast is and they stop loving nascar that much..

  29. As a former resident of St Kilda (the suburb next to Albert Park in Melbourne) and regular jogger around Albert Park, I think Joe is talking up how great the GP is for the park a little too much.

    The park gets ripped to shreds in the two months leading up to and the two months after the GP every year. Yes the grandstands are gone within a few weeks, but the grass, gardens and paths take months to recover.

    That said I am an F1 and general motor sport nut and I think it is worth it.

    So lets look at it from an economic perspective, let’s consider the tourism implications, and perhaps lets even think about added infrastructure, but don’t try and tell anyone it is good for the park, because it aint.

    1. Mick Leyden,

      Yes, there is some disruption but I visited the park in the 1980s and it was filled with rubbish, drunks and junkies. It was horrible. the house prices in Albert Park and St Kilda were low and St Kilda at least was filled with hookers. It is a lot more chic these days and a lot of that is due to the GP. If you want another example look at Long beach before the Grand Prix there. It was a grubby place filled with sailors and hookers.

  30. There are a bunch of major financial services companies with offices in Jersey City. Goldman Sachs for starters.

    The park is certainly big enough. Closest neighbors are the New Jersey Turnpike to the west, Holland Tunnel to the north, and some container shipping yards to the south. I’m guessing noise and pollution can’t be a serious objection.

    Plenty of access via public transportation. Lots of nearby things to see and do (Ellis Island is fascinating, and I’ve heard very good things about the science center). There must be decent eating in the area just north of the part, where you’ll find the office buildings and (I believe) some nice-ish apartments.

    In the meantime, Bernie’s high rollers can take private water taxis to Manhattan for dinner at Daniel and a good night’s sleep at the St. Regis.

    After years of pooh-poohing NY GP ideas, I officially deem this one feasible.

    Of course, they still need to find a sucker to pay for it.

    Now Joe, should this come anywhere near realization, here’s an idea to shop around for getting some attention: how about getting the teams to dust off some KERS technology and have a hybrid-eco-racer grudge match race around Central Park. No-noise, greenwashed, high-profile bring-the-action-to-the-masses action.

    Sir Frank can bring his flywheel thingy. The NY Times will love it.

  31. You don’t mention who will pay….. I doubt the locals will and New York City won’t notice. I thought that the whole problem with Indianapolis was the fee, and if they can’t do it, what chance has New Jersey?
    We must have been talking to different people in Melbourne as all of the ones I know can’t wait to lose the race and the pile of money they have to fork out for it.
    The mayor of New Jersey has come out against the race today, I think it is just a Bernie press release so that he can tell the teams he is trying to get a race in US, honest.

  32. Joe, while BCE is desperate for a race near the Big Apple I’d be surprised for it to go ahead given the politics of that part of the world.

    However I hope it does. As a regular visitor to New Jersey in the 90’s and early 00’s I was amazed at how the landscape changes after you get over the horrors of Newark and Elizabeth, it really is a very nice place to visit.

  33. An F1 GP in Liberty State Park is quite unlikely as it would require massive public investment in these dire economic times for a sport/show that unfortunately it’s not hugely popular in the US compared to Nascar, oval racing and so on.

    Bet my bends F1 will take place in Indianapolis much sooner that later…

  34. Looks like it’s off… Too bad really, it would have been a good venue. But Bernie would not have been able to get any money out of the local or state governments…

    Back to Meadowlands?

  35. Well thank goodness for that, my right leg is saved. Mayor of Jersey City has already scrapped the plans…

  36. From Autosport:

    “After a review of the draft proposal prepared by the City’s Tourism Office, I have come to the same conclusion…that this type of event is not suited for Liberty State Park,” Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy was quoted as saying in a statement by local media.

    As I posted in the other thread, the idea that the US GP will race anywhere but Indianapolis is not realistic. Stories like this are great for getting people talking about F1 in America again but that’s the limit of their usefulness.

  37. I don’t know if this has already been mentioned but Autosport.com is reporting that this idea has already been ditched:

    “Jersey City has given up on its plans to host a Formula 1 race in the future, with its mayor canning the project just one day after it was made public.

    “After a review of the draft proposal prepared by the City’s Tourism Office, I have come to the same conclusion…that this type of event is not suited for Liberty State Park,” Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy was quoted as saying in a statement by local media.”

    Back to the drawing board!

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