Wheels Up on The Airfield

John Surico | Photos: Christopher Lee

As planes from nearby John F. Kennedy Airport soar overhead, uniformed racers take their marks on the abandoned runways of Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, ready to jet off into the sunset, and then land, shortly after, for the next lap.

“This is the best place in the world to race,” Horace Burrowes bellows out from a microphone, to cyclists flying by. “If you can race here, you can race anywhere.”

Mr. Burrowes is the unofficial commentator of his Thursday night bicycle race – a weekly tradition he started in 2011. He is, of course, speaking not of the Tour de France’s Mont Saint-Michel, but the cracked asphalt and high, swaying marshes on the outskirts of the distant skyline.

For the former cyclist from Guyana, the race is a family affair: his father-in-law drives the pace car – or, in this case, a minivan – which leads the pack in two separate races; his wife handles registration in front of his truck, which doubles as a construction van during the day. His younger brothers compete and his teenage daughter awards medals to the winners, who use the criterium competition (“crit” for short) to train.

Over the years, the race has grown into a night of nostalgia for local Caribbean cyclists and onlookers – a sense of community photographer Christopher Lee first felt when he rode in a Thursday night crit race himself some time ago.

“Biking is huge back home. It’s a small country, so everyone comes out to watch the races when they come by,” said Scott Savory, a 26-year-old member of the Guyana national team. Referencing another popular racing night, he continued, “Everyone knows that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone’s out here.”

He looked back at friends from his home country, hanging by their cars as reggae and cheers filled the air – a Guyanese racer had won the night’s first race – and then laughed. “These guys are always here, and they’re always parked in the same spots."

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Christopher Lee (@theotherchrislee) is a Korean American photographer based in New York City. Lee aims to create photographs that foster empathy and understanding, especially in fringe groups and underrepresented communities. 

John Surico (@johnsurico) is a contributing editor for Newest York and freelance journalist and researcher, based in Queens, New York. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, and leads coverage of New York City transit for VICE.com. He is also a founding editor of Potluck Magazine.