I bumped into Bernie Ecclestone in Singapore and we had a chat about some of the matters of the moment: nothing too heavy. We talked a bit about India and getting everything together in time for the GP; we touched on Mexico where he said there are moves going on; and we briefly discussed a race in New York. Bernie has always wanted a race that uses the city as a backdrop. It is just one of his things. This goes back to October 1982 when Ecclestone announced that a race would take place in New York in 1983. The New York Grand Prix Corporation had signed a deal for seven years but the sites being discussed were not downtown but out in the suburbs: at Flushing Meadow in Queens, at Roosevelt Field on Long Island and at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The site chosen was Flushing Meadow and an event was planned for September 1983 but it soon became clear that there were legal issues which would delay matters and in the end Ecclestone decided not to risk a last-minute injunction and so the race was cancelled.
In 1984 CART raced in a circuit laid out in the car park of Meadowlands. Ecclestone kept trying but in mid-1985 the plan was cancelled once and for all. Meadowlands went on being used by CART until the March 1992 announcement of a race in Manhattan. The intention was for Indycars to race around a 1.14-mile track, at the base of the World Trade Center, reaching speeds of 165mph. The plan was there to be grandstands for 50,000 people and the minimum disruption possible for the city. The organisers even went as far as to predict that the race would generate $56m for the city. The date was set for July 11 1993 and Mayor David Dinkins declared himself to be behind the event. The man behind that idea was none other Floyd “Chip” Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Inc, in league with Marlboro and the renowned International Management Group (IMG). That was cancelled after six months of talk.
Since then Ecclestone has concentrated his efforts on the New Jersey shoreline, which provides great views of Manhattan. He has had a series of plans but none have yet come off. The most recent involves a street track right on the river at Weehawken. It is a good plan and Mr E mentioned that he was hopeful that this might actually come good and that he has spoken to “the man who owns the land”. I was intrigued by this because I thought it odd that one man might be able to own such a huge chunk of land alongside the River Hudson in a city such as New York. I discovered Arthur Imperatore Jr.
One of 10 children, Imperatore was raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, during the Depression and early poverty fuelled his drive for success. He joined his brothers in their trucking company in 1947, when they had two old army trucks and they built the APA Transport Corporation, one of the most successful freight lines in the country. Imperatore then began investing in real estate and in 1981 he purchased 350 acres of crumbling dockland and abandoned factories during the liquidation of the Penn Central Railway. He paid just $7.75 million for what amounted to two and half miles of waterfront. He has spent the last 25 years working towards creating a new world of luxury condominiums, high-end retail stores, restaurants and a ferry system to shuttle people to Manhattan, and has long since left the transportation business, although he is still owner of the NY Waterways ferry, which he established in 1987. He is also the owner of the New Jersey Devils hockey team.
Now in his mid-eighties, he is still doing deals and reading about him I can see how Ecclestone and he would get on. A deal between the two of them makes sense for both parties as Imperatore wants his district to be more glamorous. There would be financial benefits for him and the communities involved. Such a project would also support the F1 race in Austin. As in league with the Canadian and Brazilian races and probably a race in Mexico, it would create a much stronger TV package for the US time zone, and a better opportunity for F1 to build up its presence in the United States.