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Bike Racers May Lose Prime Spot Due to Corporate Greed

Photo: Patrick Schnell

Cyclists may lose one of the best racing spots in the city, thanks to the exorbitant permit fees of a private corporation.

Aviator Sports, a for-profit contractor that leases Floyd Bennett Field from the federal government, is increasing the price of a permit from $150 for the entire summer to $2,000 per race, which would bring the cost of the season to $34,000. The exorbitant price increase — roughly 22,567 percent — may prevent the long-running Tuesday Night Race Series from taking place this summer, cyclists say.

“You can’t imagine why a park would try to kick something like that out,” said Jon Orcutt, a spokesman for Bike New York. “Maybe there’s somebody at Aviator or National Parks whose got a grudge on the issue.”

Cyclists say the park, a defunct airfield, is the perfect setting for bike racing because it's wide open, usually empty and its cracked pavement and harsh winds make for intense technical challenges.

The races, which have been held for 25 years, draw cyclists from all corners of the city, resulting in “a tapestry of people from everywhere,” according to Reed Rubey, who raced at the field for several years.

“It has the biggest cross-section of racers all over the city,” Rubey said. “It really truly represents what New York City is.”

According to Rubey, cyclists meet in Manhattan before the race, and bike down Flatbush Avenue all the way to the park. After the races, they bike back through Brooklyn and over the Brooklyn Bridge at night, into Manhattan for drinks.

Racing cyclists fear their community would fall apart without the space.

“It’s incredibly diverse, people come together and meet and have a great time, hang out after the races in the summer, it’s a great scene.” said Orcutt. “These people might not meet each other otherwise.”

Charlie Issendorf, a longtime organizer of the race series, met with Aviator CEO Dean Rivera on Wednesday for what he says was a fruitless meeting. According to Issendorf, Rivera focused on the cost of the races to Aviator being about $1,100 due to police, ambulances and Aviator staff needing to be present at the races. Rivera said Aviator would need to turn a $900 profit per race if the races are to continue.

Issendorf said he is frustrated by Aviator’s fixation on profit, especially since the park is public land.

“This is a public park paid for by our taxes,” Issendorf said. “Why does Aviator have to make a profit, and why are [National Park Service] employees turning our park over to Aviator and allowing them to make the park inaccessible?”

Aviator and the National Parks Service did not respond to phone calls before deadline. An online petition to keep the permit prices affordable has gathered over 1,500 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

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