By Joseph Wolkin
A Port Jefferson native tried to bring a high-speed boat race to his hometown, but concerns about logistics sank the plan before it could leave the dock.
The Port Jefferson Super Boat Grand Prix, an event that would have featured 25 to 30 speed boats racing through the Long Island Sound near Port Jefferson Harbor during the second week of September, will not take place after their sanctioning body, Super Boat International, couldn’t get approval for the event from town or village officials. SBI has held races across the United States, including in Patchogue in years past.
“It’s not because I don’t like boats or any of these other reasons that I don’t want to help my merchants or boost our economic development. It’s strictly public safety.” —Margot Garant
According to a Facebook post from Billy Mauff, a Port Jefferson native and the driving force behind the proposed race, the contest was removed from SBI’s schedule due to opposition from Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). Mauff is an owner and drives for WHM Motorsports.
“It has always been a goal of mine to bring the sport that I love so much to my hometown, with all of the positive attributes that come along with it … including the local and national exposure that the racing will bring to the community as well as the substantial economic impact that the event would have on the Village of Port Jefferson and the surrounding areas,” Mauff said in the June 21 post on WHM Motorsports’ Facebook page.
Garant addressed her concerns about the event in a phone interview Aug. 1.
“We can barely handle Pokémon right now,” Garant said. “As much as we were thankful for them thinking of us to put us on the map for economic development, we only have 600 parking spaces here. When you’re taking away the main parking lot in the Town of Brookhaven … where is everybody parking? When you look at the things we struggle with on a daily basis on an average day in the height on the summer, it’s not attainable for us.”
Bonner declined to comment on the event.
Garant’s version of events leading up to the nixing of the race differs from Mauff’s. The Mayor hesitated to call what occurred a cancelation of the event, because village or town officials never approved it.
“[Mauff] took it upon himself to tell his organization that Port Jefferson would be fantastic,” Garant said. “He came to see us in March and apparently, the organization he represented already advertised that it was happening without meeting with the Village of Port Jefferson, the fire departments and then, I sent him to the Town of Brookhaven because I don’t own the water. He was looking at staging this in the Town of Brookhaven parking lot, which is right across the street and a vital parking lot for us. He had this whole plan, but thing is, he failed to scope out the whole plan with all of us.”
Mauff said he began the process of obtaining all necessary permits in Nov. 2015. Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said she has correspondence dating back to March with Mauff and other organizers of the event. According to Ransome, on Feb. 22, the Chamber of Commerce supported the race and sent a letter to the Village the Port Jefferson village business district, Mauff and his wife, June Connolly. Mauff said he also met with Bonner in May.
Connolly said Mauff and SBI had a plan to run buses to and from the area to Cedar Beach to ease traffic. She said officials quickly shot down the plan. Mauff was also in contact with the United States Coast Guard in an effort to secure a permit.
“I cannot express how deeply disappointed we are in the shortsightedness of Mayor Garant and Councilwoman Bonner as well as the Town of Brookhaven in allowing their complacency, fears, personal and political differences and interests and/or biases to defeat the race without, at least, giving us the opportunity to have the race voted upon by the public, the constituents they purportedly represent, before using political influences to block an event that they do not support,” Mauff said.
SBI’s races tend to draw crowds in the thousands, according to the organization’s website.
Mauff listed more than 40 businesses in his statement that he claims supported the event.
“He said he’ll have buses, but where are you going to put the buses,” Garant said. “How are the buses going to get on the hills. It’s not because I don’t like boats or any of these other reasons that I don’t want to help my merchants or boost our economic development. It’s strictly public safety.”