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Formula E, racing with electric cars, comes to Brooklyn

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver Daniel Abt of

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport driver Daniel Abt of Germany, front, practices at the Formula E Hong Kong ePrix auto race, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. Credit: AP / Kin Cheung

Formula E racing does not shy away from big city challenges: Beijing, Berlin, Moscow, London, Paris, Hong Kong – you name it. But finding a place to race in New York proved to be a unique challenge.

“We never wanted to give up, but we were getting a bit frustrated that we could not find a place,” Alejandro Agag, the electric car circuit’s CEO, said.

Governor’s Island proved logistically untenable. Liberty State Park was too . . . New Jersey.

Central Park “very clearly immediately became a non-starter, because we would have had to cut some trees,” Agag said, acknowledging a no-no for an outfit dedicated to green technology.

Finally, with the help of deputy mayor Alicia Glen, who happened upon a race in Paris last year, Formula E landed a spot at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.

That is where it will make its New York debut Saturday and Sunday.

“We think this race in New York is a turning point for Formula E, and it shows how far the championship has come,” Agag said. “New York is basically the capital of the world.”

All it took were major renovations and adaptations that included sinking money into repaving a parking lot and turning it into a race course.

But Formula E, which debuted in 2014, viewed New York as an essential platform for its core mission: Creating a circuit focused on clean technology and electric cars, the presumed future of motor sports.

Hence the emphasis on races in city streets, preferably with a skyline view as a backdrop. Agag called New York “a huge loudspeaker for Formula E.”

Michael Andretti of Andretti Autosport, one of 10 teams competing on the circuit, said of the New York event, “This is an amazing feat for Alejandro to pull off . . . I think the whole series, it’s amazing how far it has come in 2 1/2 years.”

Andretti said of the green mission, “A lot of things we’re going to be developing in the next five or 10 years, you’ll see a lot of that technology end up being in road cars . . . This is to show that there is an alternative and it is the future, and you get to see it perform on a race track.”

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