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Suffolk County should move cautiously on a drag racing site

Long Island Needs a Drag Strip founder John

Long Island Needs a Drag Strip founder John Cozzali speaks during a news conference announcing the formation of an ad hoc drag-racing committee in Hauppauge, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

It’s tough to build on Long Island, especially when it’s something big and especially when it’s on land that’s not already developed. Long Islanders don’t want to lose any more open space. And there’s all kinds of good stuff we don’t have enough of, like affordable housing and assisted-living facilities, that continue to be blocked.

That’s the context for the head-scratching decision by the Suffolk County Legislature to help find a site in the county for . . . drag racing. Yes, the government is going to look for a place for a private venture.

Now, we don’t doubt the passion of the sport’s adherents. They’ve clamored for a spot for a drag strip and its associated businesses for years. And we agree that roads would be safer without drag racers on them. But Suffolk has no obligation to find venues for every hobby, no matter how loud the lobby, and especially when the rationale is to stop practitioners from doing it illegally. A strip is unlikely to attract young people who face off on all types of roads at all hours of the night.

That drag racers have been unable to find a suitable site on their own speaks volumes. Also telling: the failure of past drag strips. This is far different from towns building skateboard facilities for kids in their own parks. Drag racing supporters say the site would require 100 to 250 acres. There are noise and environmental concerns. County officials are hungry for the possible sales tax revenue. We get it. But is a drag strip financially viable? Suffolk’s committee must do an economic impact study that tests thoroughly the claim that it would produce $120 million in annual revenue.

Suffolk needs to proceed warily before it helps this venture get to the starting line. — The editorial board