Protestors

Undaunted by a protest of Formula One racing by Miami Gardens residents on Sunday, representatives of the Miami Dolphins and Formula One inked a deal to bring annual racing to the outskirts of Hard Rock Stadium.

Tuesday afternoon, Tom Garfinkel, vice chairman & CEO, of Hard Rock Stadium and Sean Bratches, managing director, Commercial Operations, for Formula One told the world that they would bring Miami Grand Prix to the bedroom community near the northern county line.

But more than 30 Miami Gardens residents said a noisy “Not in our neighborhood” to Formula One on Sunday, Oct. 13 at the corner of Northwest 199 Street and 27 Avenue.

The demonstrators waved signs and chanted to get drivers and people walking to the game’s attention to learn about their cause. The protesters strategically planned their demonstration to take place the same day as a Miami Dolphins home game.

The residents are upset with Formula One and Hard Rock Stadium officials that they moved forward with plans but did not meet with residents first to air their plans. Leader of the group, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty T. Ferguson, said this is a matter of environmental justice and she and the group will not let this happen on their watch.

“I’ve taken on this cause because this Formula One race will be absolutely devastating environmentally to all of the surrounding community and Hard Rock Stadium is surrounded on all four sides by communities that have been around for over 20 years,” she said. “For them to bring in a race that will produce noise levels that can damage your hearing permanently shows that they really don’t care anything about our community.”

Ferguson is the president of the advocacy group Unrepresented People’s Positive Action Council (UPPAC). She wants people to know the experts say the effects of the races will be damaging to everyone within a two-mile radius of the stadium, which include those at nearby elementary, middle and High schools.

“We will not sit by and allow this to happen. We will not be a Flint, Michigan and sit by and watch them poison our air, damage our hearing, including the hearing of our children and put jet engine fuel in the air and the rubber from the tires; those cars go up to 200 miles per hour. Does that even sound like something they should put in the middle of a bedroom community?” said Ferguson.

According to VeritasHearing.com, hearing damage can lead to tinnitus so that ringing sound you get in your ear after a loud event simply never goes away. And Miami Gardens residents are not the only ones to reject the event coming to their community for environmental reasons. In the Netherlands nitrogen emissions were a major concern to help protect threatened species. 

The County Commission has added a wrinkle in the move to bring racing to Miami Gardens.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan proposed a resolution at the board’s Oct. 3 to make County Commissioners take a vote on whether Hard Rock Stadium can close off surrounding streets to host the race. It was put on hold. The resolution will be proposed again on Oct. 29. If the deal gets voted down, then Formula One will have to fly a checkered flag. If they get the green light, racing could start as early as May 2021.

Miami Dolphins owner and billionaire, Stephen Ross, is a part of a group hoping to bring the race to Miami Gardens. Their bid to bring it to Downtown Miami was turned down.

“We have and will continue to be good partners to Miami Gardens and are excited [to] bring another world class event to the city with an estimated annual impact of more than $400MM,” a Dolphins spokesperson said in a statement. “We recognize the concerns of a handful of residents and will continue to engage in productive dialogue to inform and educate them about Formula 1 and the opportunities this 6-hour global event will create for our community, from jobs to small business engagement, not to mention growing tax revenues that fund local government services.” 

Opa-locka Community Development Corp. founder and CEO Willie Logan attended the Sunday protest to show his solidarity with the cause. His organization is located in Opa-locka, the city directly south of Miami Gardens, and also services families in the city. He said that he remembers when Formula One racing was done years ago in downtown Miami and residents hated it and the traffic nuisances. He said the community wasn’t consulted or engaged before they thought of bringing the race to Miami Gardens.

“All too often things happen to our community and to the residents there without us sending a strong signal of opposition and, in this case, bringing a race car event into a bedroom community is not only outrageous but it’s harmful to the community,” said Logan. “The few jobs that will be given for three or four days in preparation for such an event … the minimum wage jobs, don’t offset the costs of those of us who are inconvenienced because we have to ride around a half hour because the roads are blocked off or the pollution we have to deal with for the rest of our lives.”

Even some younger residents loaned their time to the cause to show that these things matter to millennials, too. Jahdiel Murray, 25, is the Miami Gardens Youth Advocate for MG Families Unite, and he believes if you’re a member of the Miami Gardens community you should be concerned with this no matter what age you are.

“It’s important to me as a resident, as a community advocate, as someone who cares about people being exploited, being used and not keeping any benefits from some massive project like this. I recognize the class interests that’s involved. I recognized the racial elements that are involved in this and all of those things culminate with getting me to say I don’t think this is fair. I don’t think this is right,” said Murray.

What residents don’t think will be right if Formula One racing is allowed to come to Hard Rock Stadium is the fact that they will have to endure air, light and noise pollution, traffic inconveniences and road closures. They will be taking to the corner of Northwest 199 Street and 27th Avenue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at every Miami Dolphins home game to protest this matter. Ferguson encourages others to join them in the demonstration if they don’t want to see Formula One racing in Miami Gardens.

The Dolphins countered that two races have already been zoned in Miami Gardens. It cites the Concourse Club, a year-round racetrack that was built on a section of the Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport. The other is the Drivers Club, which is being built on County land adjacent to a residential community less than two miles from Hard Rock Stadium.   

The Dolphins also defend the noise pollution from Formula One races. They say the “closest home is nearly 500 feet away from the closest section of the track, and thousands of feet from the majority of the track.”   

The said protestors have old information concerning the cars’ noise levels. In 2014, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the group that regulates auto racing, lowered the noise levels for cars from 140 decibels to 134. However, a September 2019 report commissioned by Jordan and conducted by the Commission Auditor said “134 decibels is still a considerable noise level that can pose health risks.”

 Ferguson and others have formed the group, MG Families Unite, which plans to protest at every Dolphins home game through Dec. 1, with a final protest planned for Super Bowl 2020 on Feb. 2.

MG Families Unite is comprised of Miami Gardens residents who advocate for policies that are in the community’s best interest. The group is committed to stopping plans in motion that would bring Formula One Racing to Hard Rock Stadium.

Since its inception, the F1 racing circuit has ultimately been rejected by numerous host cities due to health concerns, the environmental impact and inconveniences of hosting these events.

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