Video: ‘Thursday Fields’ captures the racing culture at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field

Harry Zernike captures the racing culture at Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field in his debut film, 'Thursday Fields.'

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Floyd Bennet Field was New York City’s first airport in the 1930’s, though it didn’t last long in that capacity. It’s had many incarnations since then, and it’s now part of the National Park system. The runways and taxiways are still there, and a couple of die-hard promoters run bike races in the spring and summer months.

The racing is hard. Buffeted by winds coming off the ocean, riders navigate around potholes and tufts of grass pushing up through the disintegrating pavement. At the same time, it’s a beautiful and somewhat surreal atmosphere. Races start in the evening so often there is this suffusion of evening, ocean light. There are times when you’re racing straight into the setting sun, towards a twilight finish.

The riders are from all over the world, and all kinds of occupations. It’s a strikingly diverse crowd, emblematic of New York.

I raced at Floyd many times, in the Tuesday night series, but only once in the Thursday series run by Horace Burrowes. That night I found myself laughing, even while sucking for air, every time I passed the start/finish, where Horace was on the PA, heckling and cajoling the passing field, calling out riders by name. I’d never heard anything quite like this in a road race. I kept it in my mind for a few years to make a film about this scene, and finally captured the race in the 2017 season.

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