Karen Hunter-Jackson, leader of the political action committee Miami Gardens Strong, recently welcomed dozens of the city’s residents to a petition drive at Norwood Elementary School. Just a few feet away was a sign that read: “We said no to Formula 1. Elected officials sold us out.”
Formula 1 has officially signed a contract with Hard Rock Stadium, but not everyone is excited for this deal.
Hunter-Jackson and her organization were urging voters to throw out the three Miami Gardens commissioners who voted in favor of a plan to run Formula 1 race cars on the site of Hard Rock Stadium. That effort died last week, when Hunter-Jackson acknowledged they had not received enough signatures for a recall vote.
“Why didn’t they decide to do it on a racetrack close to here?” Hunter-Jackson asked. “It’s not just about the pollution or the noise, it’s the betrayal. Why didn’t they let the community know about it before signing any paper or making any deal?”
Formula 1 has signed with Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens for a 10-year partnership for the new Miami Grand Prix. The first races are expected to begin in 2022. Formula 1 is an international auto racing sport in which 20 drivers compete in 23 races around the world to win the world championship.
The races will bring noise, air pollution and traffic to the area, opponents say. The Miami Gardens community, which is predominantly made up of people of color, is concerned about an increase in asthma and other pulmonary issues that can worsen with the hazardous chemicals let into the air by the race cars. The air pollution can also affect the environment and wildlife in the area.
Noise is another point of concern for residents. According to Hunter-Jackson, an expert hired to study the issue said the din from the cars at the all-day events would be equivalent to that of a buzzsaw.
Formula 1 racing has not taken place in Florida since 1959, and the Miami Grand Prix will be the first such event to be held in Miami. The idea of a Grand Prix goes back decades, with races held in downtown Miami through much of the 1980s.
Initially, the Formula 1 event was proposed for downtown Miami near Biscayne Boulevard and Bayfront Park. However that idea was met with disapproval from residents and businesses in the area including Port Miami.
After the city commission rejected the plan, Hard Rock Stadium became the next possible location. Race sponsors offered millions of dollars in aid to the Miami Gardens community.
“I am confident we can deliver yet another global event that will be a destination for people from around the world and drive economic value to South Florida.” said Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. Ross has supported the proposal to bring F-1 racing to Miami-Dade since 2017.
But the Hard Rock Stadium proposal was met with opposition once more. October 30, 2020 Miami Gardens residents who were supported by Betty Ferguson, a former county commissioner, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing then-Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the county of racial discrimination and of a constitutional rights violation.
April 14, 2021 Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris suggested a resolution to placate residents and activists who opposed the deal. The resolution would have the F-1 race organizers pay the community $5 million for internships, STEM programs for local schools, businesses, and more.
The money helped change the perspective of Pedro Garcia, a 51-year-old resident, who says, “I understand how it can be a problem to some people to have Formula 1 close to us, but I also think about the benefits we can obtain from it. I love cars and I’m more than excited to take my family with me to experience something new to us.”
On April 14, 2021 the city council voted to allow the Formula 1 deal, inciting the 10-year partnership between the racing corporation and Hard Rock Stadium in a 5-2 vote.
However, this was not the end to residents like Hunter-Jackson and those of Miami Gardens Strong who see a greater importance now more than ever to keep big corporations out of their community. The political action group created a petition looking to gain 10% of Miami Gardens registered voters’ signatures to recall Vice Mayor Reginald Leon (seat 2), Councilman Robert Stephens (seat 6), and Councilwoman Katrina Wilson (seat 4) who agreed to the partnership.
They held a petition drive at Norwood Elementary school only a few blocks away from the stadium starting May 10 in efforts to obtain 2,000 signatures.
On June 10, 2021 after a month of the group’s efforts to recall the council members, they would end up falling short with only hundreds of signatures still needed.
Yet Karen Hunter-Jackson and other residents say they will continue to make sure their voices are heard in future local elections to keep Miami Gardens safe.
“There is no amount of money you can pay us for our health,” Hunter-Jackson said.