Formula E Drives Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Improvements

Have a cruise terminal with a few weeks available years in advance? The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Formula E may be interested in utilizing it as a temporary street circuit and funding various upgrades for the globe-trotting electric racing series, a kind of “green” corporate diplomacy now on display from Hong Kong to Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook was host to the Championship, July 15 to 16, as a group of international drivers raced state-of-the-art single seat race cars on a short and narrow 1.1-mile street course that utilized most of the cruise terminal’s tight parking lot. The terminal building was on display as a media center and catering area.

It was certainly a boon to the area as Formula E’s aggressive and high-budget promotion generated significant exposure for the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

According to a report in the New York Times, Formula E spent “upward of $20 million” on the transformation of the cruise terminal and its surrounding area into the 10-turn course, which included a number of upgrades that will have a long-term benefit for the cruise industry in Brooklyn.

Formula E Track Map

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), which oversees the cruise terminals in Brooklyn and Manhattan, said in a prepared statement that when approached to host the New York City ePrix, it felt it was a good fit for bringing exposure to the area.

The flipside to the NYCEDC was a multimillion dollar investment from the race organizer, which opened its checkbook to build the temporary track in exchange for a permit to host the race.

“The most significant improvement to the terminal was the re-paving of roadways utilized for passenger drop-off and pick-up,” said the NYCEDC, in statement sent to Cruise Industry News. “Formula E has effectively widened traffic routes in the terminal area, which has enhanced passenger movement throughout while a cruise ship is docked at Pier 12. Additionally, the organization has made improvements on some sidewalks and expanded the Atlantic Basin/Red Hook ferry landing.”

“This race has been a long time in the making,” said Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of Formula E. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of city officials, Brooklyn authorities, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the NYCEDC – I’d like to thank them for their continual support for what I’m sure will be an amazing spectacle for years to come.”

Formula E Paddock with NYC Skyline

Formula E officials declined to comment further on the potential to bring the race back in 2018 or the utilization of a cruise terminal as a temporary venue.

Free tickets were available at multiple community centers in Brooklyn, but attendance was most likely hampered by weekend subway maintenance. Attendance was said to be around 16,000 for the full weekend event. 

The location was apparently down the list of choices for the race promoter as well, according to reports. Formula E looked at multiple areas in the five boroughs, but settled for the cruise terminal with city officials, opting for minimal traffic and environmental impact.

The location, despite offering a narrow track, was welcomed by competitors. 

“When you walked the tracked it looked narrow, but when you finally got going it was a really cool track,” commented Felix Rosenqvist, a Formula E driver.

Other parties involved included McLaren Engineering Group, which helped on the design process, and Brooklyn-based general contractor D’Onofrio General Contractors Corp., which was involved in the construction of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal a decade ago, and played a major role in building the track.

With cruise companies planning calls and itineraries anywhere from one to five years out, port officials looking to transform their parking lots into temporary street circuits must be sure of a three week window without a cruise call. The Queen Mary 2 sailed from Brooklyn on July 6 and returns on July 28.

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