The Staten Island Runner

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August 14, 2000 

NYRROArs   by Glenn Ribotsky

An ongoing commentary on issues in the Staten Island and metropolitan road racing community, complied through the auspices of the New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation.


Before beginning this month’s commentary, I’d like to share the text of a letter recently written and sent not only to the addressee below, but to all of the major print media outlets of Staten Island--this not only includes the Staten Island Advance, which, if it is to be considered major, should be so considered only by dint of circulation numbers, but the Staten Island Register and the North Shore Star as well.

The Honorable Guy V. Molinari
Office of the Borough President
Borough Hall
Staten Island, NY 10301

Dear Borough President Molinari:

As the current chair of the New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation (NYRROA), I can only applaud your office’s recent decision to place on the “fast track” the construction of Staten Island’s first dedicated indoor track and field facility. This facility, once operational, will not only immeasurably aid the development of the borough’s scholastic track, field, and cross-country programs, but will also be a boon to those weekend athletes looking to enjoy their sport and improve their health. It should help additionally to continue to alter the perception of those outside the borough that Staten Island is merely an adjunct to the rest of the City of New York in the athletic realm—an alteration begun with the efforts to bring minor league baseball to the borough in the person of the Staten Island Yankees.

Nevertheless, I feel it necessary to sound a note of caution, while the project is still in its planning stages. The ultimate success of the facility in all these areas will rest upon the ways in which it is planned, constructed, and operated. Involving those with experience and vision, both with athletic facilities and with track and field programs/events, will be essential. Placing the construction and/or operation in the hands of those with little feel for the specifics of the sport would only serve to undermine all of the best efforts to get such a facility working for the community.

It is for this reason that I, and the executive board of NYRROA, strongly recommend that you involve, both at this early stage of the project and in the future, those individuals and organizations who have expertise in these areas, and allow them real input into the decision making process. Just as your office has recognized NYRROA’s expertise in road racing by consulting with it in organizing the highly successful Semper Fi road race held each autumn, so it should use the expertise of Staten Island’s premier track and field alliance, TRAC (Track Running and Community) in bringing this project to the best possible conclusion.

TRAC’s membership includes a wide variety of accomplished individuals with expertise in athletic programming, facilities design, marketing, publicity, and fundraising, and its diversity is representative of the Island community—both the seriously athletic and the not-so-serious—as a whole. Involving TRAC in a meaningful way throughout the process could only help in the achievement of the ultimate goal—an indoor track and athletic facility used, and taken pride in, by all of Staten Island.


Glenn Ribotsky
New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation

The thread here is obvious enough. Even though I and NYRROA have been critical in the past of some of the specifics involved in the movement to get an indoor track up and running on Staten Island, and still have some concerns, for example, about where the revenue will come from to support it if it is a dedicated running facility (e.g., if there are no dog shows or sports memorabilia conventions on non-competition days as revenue raisers), on balance the project is worth doing. The devil is in the details, and again, while I have had some criticisms of how TRAC and its founders have handled it/their approach to the project, I feel more comfortable with TRAC having a heavy involvement than a light one. (To be fair, some of these criticisms have been addressed—I prodded the TRAC founders to separate the organization from the Staten Island Athletic Club to promote more involvement from other segments of the running community, and to be more open in the reporting of its activities, and this is being done.) It may come as a surprise, considering it was TRAC principals who really pushed for, and got, a meeting with the Borough President’s office to promote the need for an indoor track, that a heavy involvement for TRAC in the planning for the facility and its eventual operation is not a fait accompli. It should be noted, though, that the “fast tracking” of this project had as much to do with political expediency as with TRAC’s presentation. Guy Molinari, about to be term-limited out of the borough president’s chair, was not only looking for something to add to his community legacy, but for something that will aid Deputy Borough President Jim Molinaro’s push for the top spot (it is no accident that Mr. Molinaro had been the person TRAC has generally been told to be in contact with).

Also, Mr. Molinari was looking for a way to undermine the efforts of local businessman and political-thorn-in-his-side Lou Wein, who has attempted to embarrass Molinari by putting forward plans to use the vacated Stapleton Homeport to build a multi-sport facility (this as part of Wein’s drive to run for office in the near future). This means that if a facility is built, it is likely to be involved in enough political horse-trading that there is no guarantee knowledgeable track people will be meaningfully involved in the details of its siting, construction, or eventual operation—it could be constructed by those whose major qualifications are political connections, and operated by concessionaires about whom the same can be said. So I feel that if the politicos are going to make this project part of political expediency, than I can be expedient enough to push for TRAC’s continued heavy presence in the process. I would urge all who are thinking of writing letters or lobbying Borough Hall to do the same—at least TRAC, even if you may not agree with all of its personalities and process, has as its final emphasis a good usable facility in which good competitions can be held (which cannot necessarily be said for the other parties involved).

Glenn Ribotsky
Chair, New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation
84 Vogel Loop
Staten Island, NY 10314