The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

October 19, 2013

Harpersfield track is criticized for a reason

By Michael Blaine Local Commentary
The Daily Star

---- — A recent commentary by Steve Pushkar, who describes himself as a resident of Oneonta and New York Safety Track’s “marshal,” complains that everything he has been reading about the track has been negative.

There is a simple reason for this. Concerned citizens have been speaking out regularly regarding the appalling conditions the track has created, not only in Harpersfield but in three other nearby towns. In letters to the editor in a variety of newspapers, as well as at packed town meetings, we have expressed our dismay at the noise, dust and unrelenting traffic generated by the track.

Mr. Pushkar’s backyard is in Oneonta. Our backyards extend from Harpersfield to Davenport to South Worcester and Kortright.

It is a measure of Mr. Pushkar’s anxiety regarding the track’s true nature that he mentions “safety” over and over again; however, a video on YouTube titled “Skank NYC Fastest @ New York Safety Track” shows a bike reaching 145 mph. Another video on YouTube called “Woman at New York Safety Track 5/12/13” shows motorcycles racing at over 130 miles per hour. Our website features links to many more racing incidents.

New York Safety track events, which go on from early morning until sunset, are not mere annoyances. In legal documents, local citizens have described the track’s uproar as “loud, high pitched, whining,” “unbearable and unacceptable,” and so loud it penetrates “double-paned windows.”

Traffic is also a terrible problem. The vehicle count, which has been conducted for months by Friends of Rural Life, has risen from a previous handful of vehicles to 80-100 a day on busy weekends. Traffic includes pick-ups pulling box trailers and Winnebagos.

Race tracks have an obvious negative effect on real estate. Regarding a proposed track in Connecticut, realtor Robinson Leach said on Register-Star online “… everyone in three miles will have their property values reduced by 50 percent more or less and the time (looking for buyers) stretched for years. The town fathers will be sentencing the town’s property owners to lowered property values.”

Closer to home, local residents Bill and Ingrid Husam, who live near the track, recently had a realtor evaluate their property’s value. At first the agent suggested a selling price that they felt was within reason, but the company called the next day and said that after considering the track’s many negative effects they had to lower the selling price by $30,000.

After spending twenty years in the military, Jeffery Ballard wanted to buy land near his parents’ farm, but when he heard the track’s high-pitched whine he quickly changed his mind.

One couple has abandoned their home altogether. They still have to pay their mortgage, but of course an empty house is a total financial loss.

We’re sometimes told that the track affects only a few people. However, a Columbia County resident, Gary Stoller, heard a consistent message from realtors.

“The properties closest to the track weren’t always the most affected,” he said. “Often a few miles away it was worse, especially in the elevated areas.”

With buying and selling property slowed to a crawl, the local economy will weaken. Many people in this area are on fixed incomes. In a healthy real estate market, they might use their equity to move to places such as Florida, but if they can’t secure a reasonable selling price they will be trapped. These owners are the least likely to renovate, use the services of contractors or buy new equipment from local stores. In a depressed real estate market, the economy has little chance to expand.

Imagining that a single business such as the track, which only provides part-time, seasonal employment, will stimulate the economy that it’s simultaneously wounding, doesn’t make sense.

On Nov. 12, 2012, Supervisor Jim Eisel insisted: “The site plan is for a training track, not for racing.” He also told worried citizens that no cars would be allowed on the track. Both of these statements turned out to be false.

Under the NY Safety Track’s logo on Facebook, the following appears: “racetrack, cars, racecars.”

Now we have to defend ourselves against our own government, which has allowed a single business to degrade our quality of life and our financial well-being.

Michael Blaine is a member of Friends of Rural Life.