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Town Board approves two drag racing events at EPCAL set to begin this summer

The Riverhead Town Board approved two resolutions scheduling drag racing at the Enterprise Park at Calverton at its meeting Wednesday. 

The vote on both applications was four members in favor, with Councilwoman Catherine Kent abstaining on both. 

A vote on the runway use agreement also split the same way.

“I am not against drag racing, but my concern is that we don’t have all the information,” Ms. Kent said.

The decision came at the end of a three-and-a-half-hour meeting that featured numerous drag racing enthusiasts who favored the events, and other residents who were opposed on the grounds that it would create noise and would disrupt ceremonies at the Calverton National Cemetery and that more study on its impact should be done. 

The first event to be approved was the Race Track Not Street at EPCAL racing series, consisting of eight drag racing events Aug. 21 though Sept. 12, all of which are on weekends.

Applicant Peter Scalzo of Sarasota, Fla., agreed to pay the town a use fee of $1,250 per day. He said drag racing will be different from the type of racing that takes place at Riverhead Raceway. The drag racers will only have two cars racing at a time and will all have street-legal cars that have mufflers. Each race will be over in about six seconds. The cars in Mr. Scalzo’s event are limited to 115 mph. Up to 400 cars can compete in the event and only the inactive 7,000-foot runway will be used. 

The other drag racing event approved Wednesday was the Scrambul Runway Challenge, headed by Andre Baxter of Hempstead. 

It is scheduled to have events on Sept. 25 and 26, with setup dates of Sept 23 and 24, and rain dates of Oct. 2 and 3.

The town would in turn receive $10,000 in exchange for use of the two runways, one of which is still active. It also features street-legal cars. 

Both events were moved toward later dates than originally planned to avoid bird nesting at nearby grasslands.

Many of the people in attendance wore “LI Needs a Drag Strip” T-shirts.

“You have 47 weeks a year of solitude and quietness,” Councilman Ken Rothwell said. “It’s about having a balance. So for just a few weeks, there are perhaps five weeks a year where we can have an event that can provide an economic injection for stores and delis. These are tough decisions but its about trying to have that balance.”

He said some restaurants have struggled for the last two years. 

“We have gotten so much support on this,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. “We’ve had a ton of letters from people.” 

One speaker was Grace Swift, 87, of Calverton, who said she’s been interested in racing since she was little. “I’m all for and if I hear it, it isn’t going to bother me.”

Monique Parsons of Baiting Hollow said recent studies like the downtown Pattern Book say that the number one thing the town needs in order to get a boost in economic development is events.  

John McAuliff said the noise level is an issue for neighbors, for the Calverton National Cemetery and possibly for the Wellbridge drug treatment and research facility at EPCAL. 

He said “almost all of the members of the Town Board are fans of racing and would like to have it happen” at EPCAL. He also said the amount the town is charging for the runway use is too low. 

Johnny Console, who started the “LI Needs a Drag Strip” movement, said racing is a family event and a destination. 

“All we’re asking for is a chance,” he said.