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Riverhead town board gives green light to drag racing events on EPCAL property

An aerial view from 2011 of the site

An aerial view from 2011 of the site of the former Grumman airport at Calverton now slated for EPCAL. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Start your engines: Drag racing has been given the green light in Riverhead later this summer.

The Riverhead Town Board voted 4-0 during its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon to approve a special event application for the "Race Track Not Street at EPCAL Drag Racing Series" at the Enterprise Park at Calverton over four weekends in August and September.

The board also voted 4-0 to approve the special event application for the "Scrambul Runway Challenge Drag Racing Event," a two-day competition and exhibit taking place at the EPCAL property for the weekend of Sept. 25 and 26.

Residents who live near the EPCAL property and civic groups have opposed both drag racing events, fearing that allowing them might generate noise and cause pollution at the EPCAL site’s environmentally sensitive areas.

Town Councilwoman Catherine Kent abstained from both votes and asked to table them. Kent said while she wasn’t against such events, she felt the community had raised several questions — such as what effect chemicals sprayed on the drag strip would have on groundwater — that had not been answered and the board needed more time to review the applications.

However, Councilman Tim Hubbard said he felt the information they had on both events answered "90%" of the questions he had, and the board could cancel the events if new issues arise before their start dates.

"This will be a huge success, and it will bring tons of money to our economy moving forward," Councilman Frank Beyrodt said during his ‘yes’ vote.

Pete Scalzo, 76, of Sarasota, Florida, who is promoting the "Racetrack Not Street at EPCAL Drag Racing Series," said at the meeting that noise would not be an issue because of mufflers that cars racing will be required to use.

"I’m looking for the opportunity to show you what the merits of this wholesome family sport is, that’s all that I’m looking for," Scalzo said.

John McAuliff, of Rolling Woods, a member of EPCAL Watch, was one of several residents at the meeting opposing the events, asking the board to table the resolution for at least two weeks to give more time for "hard data" to be available to the public on environmental impact, noise and other questions.

However, others who spoke in the meeting supported allowing the events.

Kathleen V. Berezny, a Riverhead resident, said drag racing was "a great American sport" that the town should allow this summer.

"Make the residents of Riverhead happy. We need fun things," Berezny said.

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